Spartans setting lofty goals for 2013 season
In 2012, the Somerset boys soccer team had the most impactful year in the team's brief history.
With nearly the entire starting lineup returning, the Spartans are looking to be even more of a force in 2013.
The Spartans finished in third place last season with a 12-3-1 record, going 14-7-2 overall.
That success came after several years of growing pains for the program and it was the first extended success for the team. The team matured together, led by a large and talented junior class. Those players are now seniors and the Spartans are looking to improve upon their 2012 success.
Last year the Spartans became a force in the offensive end of the field. Jon Bucklew became the first Somerset soccer player to receive all-state recognition after leading the state with 48 goals scored and 114 total points. He won the conference Player of the Year Award as a junior. He spent the off-season playing on the St. Croix premier team and a midwest regional team that played all over the country.
Somerset coach Bill Roll said he thinks Bucklew is a better player than last season.
"He's improved his defensive skills, creating turnovers to create (scoring) opportunities," Roll said. "I think he's faster than last year."
The MBC was one of the best offensive conferences in the state in 2012. Amery's Jake Mullendore and New Richmond's Eric Miller both scored 37 goals, tying for fifth in the state. Mullendore and teammate Michael Elbing ranked third and fifth in the state in total points. Elbing is the only player in that group returning this season.
Bucklew is not a one-man attack. Somerset's Gavin Meader and Logan Wiederin ranked fifth and seventh in the conference in scoring last season, with Meader scoring 54 points and Wiederin 36 points. With that trio returning to spearhead the offense, the Spartans' offense should be even more polished this season.
Roll said he expects Meader to be more dangerous this season.
"He's worked on his forward pressure. I think he'll score more goals from creating turnovers," Roll predicted.
Wiederin is an excellent complement to the two leading scorers. He's unselfish and brings additional fire to the attack.
"Logan brings a hockey mentality," Roll said. "He's not afraid of defenders knocking him around."
Senior Rhys Linke will be the primary reserve for the forward positions, along with sophomore Ethan Lammers.
Bucklew plays the offensive midfielder position, with JT Karis serving returning as the defensive midfielder. Karis, Bucklew and Meader are the Spartans' captains this season.
The outside midfielders also return in seniors Thomas Bauer and Ryan Vang. They have markedly different styles. Vang uses quickness and elusiveness. Bauer uses long strides to move the ball quickly up the sideline. Bauer also takes most of the team's corner kicks, allowing the leading scorers to be in position to converts those kicks into scoring chances.
Beau Harris and Wolfgang Ashton are the reserve outside mids.
The only new starters in the Spartan lineup are Sean Wells at stopper and Jesse Brown at sweeper. They were primary reserves on defense last year and now they are given the responsibility of patrolling the middle of the defense.
"Sean's really stepped up his game," Roll said. "His ball control skills are very good."
Brown saw significant time at stopper last year. His hockey background has helped him develop a calmness in pressure situations and he communicates well in directing the defense.
The outside defenders are seniors Josh Lee and Jake Scott. Scott has excellent quickness and rarely gets caught out of position. Lee is a defender who also is looking to contribute to the offense whenever he can. Both are third-year starters.
Gage Kreucher and Ryan Newman are the primary reserves on defense.
One of the revelations for the team in 2012 was the emergence of goalie Aaron Joppru. He was the second team all-conference keeper last season. Blessed with athletic skills, Joppru can reach balls that many keepers can't.
With so many returning players, the aspirations for the Spartans are higher than they've ever been.
"They should be able to compete for a conference title," Roll said. "New Richmond will be tough."
The Spartans can also set much higher goals for the post-season. The WIAA added a fourth division in soccer this year, with Somerset moving to Division 3 after competing every previous year in Division 2.
"In our regional and sectional, it probably comes down to Ashland, Amery and us," Roll said.
This Friday the Spartans will host Ashland in a showdown for one of the top seeds in the sectional bracketing. That game will start at 11:30 a.m.