October 02, 2013 - After losing 1-0 to Grand Blanc in the second round of the state tournament last year, Head Boys Varsity Soccer Coach John Thaler is looking to "progress further" this year.
Front row (left to right): D. Kitchner, R. Giberson, M. Dobies, C. Bandel, E. Igarra and J. Second row: N. Skrzycki, T. Aldermann, J. Hurford, N. Romano and D deJong. Third row: G. Knox, T. Simat, T. Downs, A. Knox and J. Champion. Fourth row: c. Garavaglia, Coach Thaler and M. Reed. Not pictured: F. Rivera-Reyes. (click for larger version)
With a current record of 8-2-1, Thaler believes chances of doing well are strong.
"In the state tournament we're put in with Rochester High, Stoney Creek, Adams and Eisenhower. Those four schools alone are either ranked at one time or another during the season or have won district regionals and state championships," he said. "You throw Lake Orion in the mix (along with) Romeo and ourselves and you have seven teams that quite possibly any day can win it."
"I love being the underdog going into these games because nothing is expected of us. We've gone in there and played well (in the past) and we're slowly getting the respect back that we had in the mid 2000's," continued Thaler. "It's been five years since we've won a district championship. It will be nice to get back in the mix (of the state tournament this year.)"
This year's team is comprised of eight returning starters, six returning letter winners and six newcomers to the team. Having 14 returnees brings "experience" to the team.
The (returnees) also bring a lot of leadership skills," added Thaler. "That has been fantastic for the team this year. They've really stepped up and guided the younger players and let them know how it is to play on a squad like this and a league such as ours that is very physical and very demanding."
He also noted that having a Paul Ebenhoeh as the JV coach also helps with newcomers to the varsity squad because as coaches they are on the "same page and share the same philosophies."
"When the boys come to me from JV they know how I operate and it's a very smooth transition," Thaler said. "It's less me having to re-teach or re-coach things, it's more or less me saying 'this is what I need you to do' and them saying 'Okay, we already know how to do it.'"
Leading the charge for the Wildcat Booters are Team Captains: Travis Simat, Chase Garavaglia and Joe Hurford.
"I couldn't have asked for better captains," added Thaler. "Those three are me on the field. When I can't speak to them (from the sidelines) they are the ones directing everything and they know how I operate. I couldn't ask for anything better out of those three."
In the league, the boys are 4-1.
"The league is always tough but we always finish in the top," noted Thaler.
As for the team overall, Thaler said he "loves this group of boys."
"They have been fantastic, no problems, no issues, just willing to learn day in and day out and it shows in our record," he added.
"Even though we are 8-2-1 if we were the opposite 2-8-1 I think the boys would still strive to get better and better everyday. I am very proud of all them."
The Wildcats take the field at home on Oct. 3 against Brandon. Kickoff is at 7 p.m.
Trevor graduated with degrees in English and communications from Rochester College. He wrote for his college and LA View newspapers before joining The Clarkston News in May 2007.