The Somerset boys soccer team is in a position where it could be drastically improved this season.
It seemed everything went wrong for the Spartans in 2017, resulting in a 2-18 final record. Somerset coach Bill Roll said he envisions the 2018 Spartans as a team that could finish with double-digit victories.
The Spartans graduated two starters from last year's team. The upside of 2017 was numerous young players got a season of experience and it showed in the team's early-season practices.
"There's potential to reach double digits in wins," Roll said. "I think .500 is definitely within reach. That would be a huge turnaround."
Somerset gave up one of the highest shot totals in the nation last year and goalkeeper Brennan Sheridan made an incredible number of saves. It's guaranteed that won't happen this year. That's because Sheridan is no longer playing keeper. He's moved out of the goal and likely will be one of the team's midfielders.
"Brennan is definitely in our top couple players. He's got very good vision and foot skills," Roll said.
Senior James Schachtner and junior Devon Fullerton are competing for the starting goalkeeper position. Neither has played keeper before. Roll said Sheridan gets credit for talking Schachtner into playing soccer this season. Schachtner's basketball skills and height show quickly. Fullerton has been in the program several years and has been working hard to learn the new position. Roll said they could split the role by game, or even by half.
"They're both raw, but they're both improving by leaps and bounds," Roll said.
Roll promises the defense will be better. Senior captain Nathan Dirkes and junior Ben Rybacki return after starting all of last season. Freshman Parker Gebheim will be the stopper. Ethan Milbrod and Brody Harris will handle the fourth defensive position.
There's also solid talent across the midfield. Sheridan, Kaine Lee, Logan Giossi and Aaron Shartin-Folkert will be the starters, with Harris and Dominic Abbott in reserve.
Erik Osorio returns to forward for his senior season. He'll be joined there by freshman Torsten Strom. Gebheim could also see time here.
Roll said the Spartans have more talent and more experience than last season and the talent is well-distributed through the starting lineup. The bench is young, so players there will need to improve so they can contribute more.
The top two teams in the Middle Border Conference are unlikely to change after Amery and New Richmond both qualified for the WIAA State Championships in 2017, in Roll's view. He said Barron and Baldwin-Woodville also return quality teams, but said he thinks Somerset can compete on their level. The same goes for the WIAA Division 3 sectional bracket. Roll said Amery and Rice Lake are likely to be the top two seeds, but thinks that Somerset has a chance to be one of the next two teams, which would earn them a home game in the opening round of the tournament.
Roll said the optimism isn't just because the players are a year older.
"The athleticism is better. We're a year more mature. Our competitiveness is better," he said. "We're definitely optimistic. The guys are working hard."