Aberdeen and Hoquiam are looking to repeat state appearances, while Montesano and Elma are hoping to improve on near-misses from last year.
The Eagles will bring an experienced group back onto the field with the aim of improving on last year’s campaign, highlighted by a share of the Evergreen 1A League title.
The 2017 campaign ended with a tough 1-0 loss to Columbia White Salmon but Elma has a mix of youth and experience to make the difference this year.
Head coach Carson Seaberg said he’s excited to have one of his top midfielders available after missing him for part of the season last year but also noted that a lot will be asked of the underclassmen at other positions.
“The last couple of years Martin Baltazar hasn’t been able to make all 16 games, but this year he’s been looking exceptional and we’re excited to have him on the field,” he said. “But overall we have some good senior contributors back from last year but we’re also really young.”
Elma’s youth will be evident on the backline. Senior Justin Sample will anchor the backline but while Doug Wescott recovers from his injury, players like Christian Sepncer and Josiah Wyeth-Jones will likely see more playing time.
The backline will benefit from the stability provided by goalie A.J. Hernandez. In addition to his shot-stopping duties Hernandez will also help organize the young group of defenders when the opposition is on the attack.
Seaburg said he believes in the talent on his roster and thinks they have the right atitude to climb the league standings.
“Nothing is given to us. We don’t take any team for granted and we want to be perennial top fighters for that number one spot,” he said. “Every game is important, every game is a championship opportunity. We’re trying to finish first in league. That’s our ultimate goal.”
Only three starters return from a Bulldog team that fell one win shy of state last year.
While the team has a fair amount of seniors, only Connor Parkinson, Yemi Idowu and Luis Muro started last season.
Montesano head coach Rick Denholm already has his starting 11 set and isconfident they can fill the void left by the departures but wants to take advantage of the preseason by experimenting with positions and formations.
“The preseason is going to really help us grow as a team,” he said. “We’ll try a lot of new positions for a few guys until we get our rotation down for the starting 11.”
In addition to his returning starters Montesano is looking forward to having Braden Stowers back on the field after he missed games with an injury last season. The senior forward is expected to provide some scoring this season while Wayman Thoemmes and Maurillio Hernandez are expected to shift between goalkeeper and defender, depending on how Monte matches up with their opponents.
“Based on what we’re predicting, Hoquiam and Elma will be up there. Then I think it’s between us, Forks and Tenino battling for that third spot,” Denholm said.
Aberdeen went on an impressive run last season that included a league title and state appearance but will be looking to re-create last year’s results with a much younger roster.
The Bobcats brought 10 seniors onto the field but will only have four on the team this year. Even though the roster is a little less experienced, the Bobcats still think their junior-heavy roster can make some noise this season.
Aberdeen head coach Larry Fleming said he thinks his young players can help replace what they lost in graduation.
“Trying to deal with the departure of the three-time league MVP, Cesar Corona, the league defensive player of the year, Robby Lewis. and the offensive player of the year in Miguel Torres is obviously quite a task,” he said. “We have four seniors in our program and they will all be great leaders and important contributors — Luis Garcia, Trevor Dawkins, Luis Martinez, Tony Oropeza. Dawkins and Oropeza were first-team all league last season and will start at sweeper and center midfield, two of the most important positions in our 4-4-2 formation.”
The departure of seniors still leaves a number of upperclassmen on the team and Aberdeen’s coaching staff sees depth as an asset.
“I feel like we are very athletic and will be fairly deep at the midfield so we can substitute liberally and keep up a fast pace and the high pressure that we like to play,” Fleming said. “On the flip side, we are bringing back only one staring defender, Trevor Dawkins, from last year’s defense so we will be trying to figure out who will play with him, and with (goalkeeper Luis) Soto, and work on communication so we can continue to play the phenomenal defense we have the past 10 years.”
A group of talented forwards boosts Hoquiam’s hopes for another trip trip to state.
Seniors Nazareno Mazariegos and Carlos Juarez, along with Connor Darras will be a big part of Hoquiam’s scoring effort as the team looks to rely on the ball skills of its midfielders and forwards.
Hoquiam head coach Fidel Sanchez said his team’s scoring and goalkeeping will propel this year’s squad.
“We’re pretty talented. We have players that can score, we have players that can get the ball in the net,” he said. “We also have really good goaltending. Jonny Smith has improved a lot since his freshman year. He’s commanding the field better.”
With a roster mostly made up of juniors and seniors, Hoquiam has a pretty good idea of who will be in the starting lineup this year. Sanchez said, however, that he wants to use the non-league schedule to determine who will provide quality minutes off the bench.
“We have a really good idea of who the starters are going to be,” he said.”The question is who is going to be on our bench. We need to figure out a way to make our bench a little stronger. That’s our biggest challenge.”