Coach: Josh Hanley
Assistant coach: Tim Masters
Captains: Nick Hix, Nick DeNomme, and Caleb Sebora
Section: 6A – Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Breck, Calvin Christian, Chaska, Delano, Holy Family, Mound-Westonka, Orono, Providence Academy, Rockford, Southwest Christian, Waconia, Watertown-Mayer, International School of Minnesota, and West Lutheran
2012 finish: In just their second season as a varsity squad, the Mayer Lutheran boys’ soccer team remained winless throughout 2012, finishing at 0-13-2. The two ties came in a 0-0 stalemate at Rockford and a 1-1 tie against Glencoe-Silver Lake. The Crusaders lost in the first round of Section 6A playoffs in a 9-0 game against Breck.
With a small roster, LHS struggled to fill the field each game, often playing one man short. For that they deserve credit, as the Crusaders avoided many blowout losses and Hanley had trained his athletes to be able to run for 80 minutes of a soccer game without a break.
The Watertown-Mayer players are coming off a more successful 2012 campaign. Going 8-9 last year, the Royals also lost in the first round of Section 6A. During the season, Matt Scanlon broke the school record for most goals in a season.
Changes for 2013: One of the biggest, and probably most beneficial, changes for the teams this season is the cooperative agreement between Watertown-Mayer and Mayer Lutheran. Head coach Josh Hanley said both schools had very small teams last year and very young players competing at the varsity level. Combining the two schools for the foreseeable future will not only make the team more complete, but will allow younger players to grow into their roles instead of a “big kids running at me” scenario.
“We’ve got a fair amount of kids from both schools,” Hanley said. “We want to get those younger guys’ confidence built up.”
Also this year, the Crusaders have taken the Mayer Lutheran logo and made their own soccer version. With a new logo and new jerseys, it’s much more soccer-looking.
“We’re going to look like a soccer program now,” Hanley said.
Key returnees: Whichever team fans cheered for last season, there will be familiar faces on this year’s combined team. From the Mayer Lutheran side, Dain Aarrestad, Eli North, Caleb Sebora, Brandon Holmes, Riley Thomas, and Garrett Corkins return to the field. On the Watertown-Mayer side of the street Matt Scanlon, Nick Hix, Nick DeNomme, and Dylan Derner all return as seniors.
Key newcomers: The newcomers for each team are the former-rival school’s members. Now teammates, Hanley said all it took was a few days of practice for the two programs to being talking.
Teams to beat: Hanley said teams like Rockford, Bethany Academy, ISM, and Southwest Christian are some of the teams the Crusaders hope to defeat this season. Mayer Lutheran will remain without a conference this season, which makes it both easier and more difficult to fill the schedule.
The Crusaders compete in Section 6A, which boasts stronger, much larger programs like Waconia, Chaska, and Orono, but also some schools that Mayer Lutheran can expect to compete with and contend for games with this season.
Goals: Under the Mayer Lutheran program name, the Crusaders are still searching for their first win as a varsity team. But with the new mix of athletes, Hanley is confident that will happen this season.
“We’re definitely going to get some wins,” he said. “We’re going to start with one game, one win … and then it’s just a matter of keeping going.”
Strengths/struggles: With the two programs now combined, Hanley said it’s only a matter of time before things start to ‘click.’
“I think with all the talent and everything, we’ll be someone to watch,” he said. “You can’t take us for granted anymore.”
He said the team is filled with hardworking players and firepower.
“We’ve got a lot of strong personalities, which is good,” Hanley said.
With the scoring power from Scanlon and Hix, along with the strong team play that Mayer Lutheran has built over the last two years, the newly vamped Crusaders could surprise this season.
One struggle facing the team could be that both squads graduated their goalies including Michael Limmel (LHS) and Brandon Buntz (Watertown-Mayer). Six other Royals and three Crusaders also graduated, leaving a younger group behind for both teams.
First game: The Crusaders began the season by losing 9-0
to Delano on Aug. 23.
“That was just another tough start,” he said.
The Crusaders trailed 3-0 after the first half, but were able to get four shots on goal of their own. In the second half, they had three. But seven LHS shots couldn’t compete with the 31 that Delano was able to blast at the goalkeepers.
“We should be able to hold them to seven shots if they hold us to seven shots,” Hanley said.
Hanley said the biggest struggle was giving Delano a lane and not stepping out to stop the Tigers from shooting the ball.
Quite a few things went well for the Crusaders, including moving the ball and the defense sticking together in the first half. The second half had spurts of solid play, most of which was due to Hix, Hanley said.
“He was all over the place, controlling the ball, doing what a captain should be doing,” Hanley said. “He was trying to get people revved up to play.”
Hanley said there was a lot of heart in the second half, which utilized a lot of junior varsity and b-squad players, as well as varsity members out of position.
“We had some players that were playing vastly out of position, because we needed them in those spots,” he said.
Garrett Corkins played most of the game in goal for the Crusaders, while freshman Jordan Koehnen finished up the last 10 minutes for LHS.
The Crusaders are on the road at Concordia Academy and Rockford next week.
Contact Melissa Marohl at email@example.com