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The question for this year's version of the Staunton River boys' soccer team is whether it can overcome the churn at the top to improve upon last year's surprisingly good season.
With its fifth head coach in seven seasons, there can be little doubt that the team is looking for some stability. New Head Coach Robert Morck hopes to provide that stabilizing influence. However, this year, he'll have to deal with the departure of two main cogs from last year: Keeper Evin Guilliams and center midfielder Jarrett Graham.
Fortunately for the Eagles, there is a solid nucleus returning to the team. Isaac Goode, a captain on last year's team, will help front the defensive side of things. Goode is a smart and gifted player. Though slender of build, he has proven he can get the job done, although he missed the majority of last season with a broken ankle.
Another proven defender is senior Daymeon Bonds, a standout last season in the backfield. This will serve as Bonds' fifth year in the program. Goode and Bonds will be joined by returning starter Casey McKittrick. "Casey really showed us some things last year," said Morck.
The final component of the centerpiece defense looks to be junior Josh Hicks, who had an outstanding year at the JV level last year.
The midfield should be enjoyable to watch. Ryan Lilly and Mike Lynch should man the center positions. Both are seniors. Whereas Lilly is a big, tall kid, Lynch is a short speedster with a motor that won't quit running. Lynch was last year's leading scorer.
There are a number of options for the outside midfielder spots including Godfrey Mackorowski, who started last season for the Eagles.
The forward line looks a bit clearer with sophomore Chris McCabe, junior Colby Barton and junior Kevin Secrist looking to see ample time on the attack.
Keeper Garret Gottschalk looks to fill the big shoes left behind by Guilliams' graduation. Gottschalk was pressed into service toward the end of last year when Guilliams came up hurt. Gottschalk should get good support from that strong group of fullbacks.
The team looks as though it will rely on its defense to keep things close enough for them to pick up goals off the transition, using its up front speed.
The Eagles will also depend on the wisdom that comes with seniority. "We have a good core, with good leaders," observed Coach Morck.
How that configuration will fare in the District is anyone's guess. With the departure of Appomattox this year, Staunton River could be in a position to assume the role of District doormat. However, with the momentum of last year, the team could just as easily be in contention for the middle of the tough Seminole pack.
Either way, if the returning players show the pluck that they did last year, the team will be one of the most enjoyable to watch.