Jacob Harmison settles the ball in a Mt. Zion boys soccer practice.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion boys soccer team will look different due to a huge senior class, but a returning defensive core, an all-time season pass record holder and new additions could still anchor last year’s second best Apollo Conference team.
Head coach Scott Crawford said that the first couple weeks of practice is a way to see where all of his players are, whether a senior or junior, the freshman and sophomores. The Braves focus of improvement early is fitness, finding passes, moving the ball, not being complacent and being strong defensively.
Being strong defensively will rely on the veteran senior group of goalkeeper Joshua Garrett, center back Carter Bahls and fullback Thomas Kanemaru. Offensively, senior Hayden Shumaker set the all-time single season assists record last fall and was second for the Braves in goals scored. Coach Crawford believes those four along with the addition of junior midfielder Greg Frazier, Ramon Munoz and Bryndon Wallace could be the answers offensively along with his defensive core.
In terms of leadership in his seniors, Coach Crawford wants his players to lead by example on and off the field.
For them, it’s lead by example, lead by talking to the young guys,” Coach Crawford said. “If you look at it, we have 10 upperclassmen and 12 freshmen and sophomores, so the numbers are uneven there. So they have to be leaders, strong leaders for the young guys, and by example obviously. And then verbally talk them through the way the season’s going to go.
Shumaker enters his senior year leadership roles by helping coach the younger players.
“I’ve played soccer all of my life so I’ve just kind of like communicating on the field and like when I notice things, because I play Striker here, but I play as the midfielder at the club level (Gallagher),” Shumaker said. I am helping out the midfielders because I can see them the whole game and I just tell them like what I would’ve tried to do in that situation and just try to get guys to learn stuff and see stuff, feel, see the field differently.”
Shumaker’s senior goals are to score as many goals and get as many assists as he can and after the graduation of a core senior group of offensive players, he feels he needs to “do as much as he can to help win games.” Shumaker’s team goal is to win the conference.
Shumaker has brothers and cousins who have gone through the Braves’ program before him. Shumaker wants his legacy for the Braves to be that the younger guys talk about Hayden Shumaker as a great leader.
“Don’t just talk about me as a player, but as a person as well,” Shumaker said. “I also hope to be like a role model for the younger players who can look up to me as a leader and someone who can help them get better in soccer.”
Garrett is entering his third year as the starting goalkeeper for the Braves. Garrett uses both to his advantage to what it comes for his leadership role.
“I kind of take this position as, like Carter said, as a leadership role, as I can see the whole field,” Garret said. “I like to make sure everyone’s in check and everyone knows where they need to be. And as I’ve grown throughout the years, I feel like I’ve definitely taken responsibility as one of the leaders and I feel honored at this position.”
Garrett’s team and individual goals are for constant improvement and defeating tough Apollo-conference and non-conference foes.
“I just want to make myself better in every aspect. I always feel like there’s something I need to improve on, and I’m going to focus on making myself better as a person and as a player, as a team,” Garret said. “I feel like we’re strong as a team, but I feel like we can also get better in areas and strive and as the season goes through, I feel like we can beat the tougher teams in conference and in non-conference games.”
Garrett’s brother before him was a starting goalkeeper and the Braves have seen talented goalkeepers in the past. For Garrett, he wants his lasting mark to be as a role model for the underclassman to look up to.
“I want to be someone that these freshmen and sophomores look up to as someone who makes sure there is a leader and someone to strive for,” Garrett said. As a player, I want to be a role model who works hard, doesn’t quit and I just wanna keep moving forward even after my career ends.”
Bahls enters his second year as the starting center back after earning his spot early last year. Bahls has encouraged the freshman to get to know everyone and wants to continue to make their voices higher. Bahl’s individual goal is to win the conference and team goal is for more communication from everyone on the team.
“Communication is key and that’s me making sure everyone is in position so we get more goals scored offensively, but also defensively clearing the ball out so we can ease the workload for him (Garrett). And I like doing my job.
Even though there are no records center backs can break in soccer, Bahls wants to be remembered by his coaches and players as a good center back as long as they’re both here and a role model.
Coach Crawford said that his expectations are to build and be playing better soccer throughout the season.
“I think as we start here, next week with three games potentially depending on the weather obviously, but with the three games coming up I think it’s just to build on every game. We play Mahomet-Seymour early, so we are going to see where we are really quick. Fitness is going to be the key and I hope that we win a few games and learn a lot through that process.”
Coach Crawford said that the overall message for his team and this season is that this team will be a hard-working group.
“I think I want them to know that they’re a hardworking bunch of kids,” Coach Crawford said. “They are going to work hard, they’re going to play hard, obviously. And then play some good soccer in between.”