NEW PARIS — The National Trail boys soccer program has fallen on hard times in recent years, but the Blazers hope 2016 will bring about positive change and better times.
New coach Mariah Bourne will lead the team this year. She is an NT alumni who played four years of soccer during her days in high school and strives to be a strong coach for the team.
“I don’t know a whole lot about last year, but I do know they really struggled,” said coach Bourne. “I would like to start a foundation here and build a stronger team because that’s what the boys need.”
She inherits a program which was days from being eliminated due to a lack of numbers. What she does have is 12 experienced, returning players from 2015, and 15 total players on the roster. Four seniors, four juniors, and four sophomores are the returning players.
“Seniors Zaccheaus Allen and Nicholas Harrist, along with junior Andrew Willett, look to be the strongest players on the team,” said Bourne. Clayton Cruze and Levi Moreland are the other seniors on the team.
The team also includes juniors Dalton Harmon, Bryce Thompson, and Brad Sorrell. Sophomores are Zach Page, Carlos Osorio, Nate Henning, and Sam Gabbard.
Thompson and Osorio are playing soccer for the first time.
“Last year, we did a lot of kick and run, kick to the corner, kick across the goal for a score, things like that,” said senior Zaccheaus Allen. “That didn’t work at all, we were getting beat by 10 points or more in a lot of games. This year, we are focusing more on passing, dribbling and teamwork. We are working to make the program better.”
Fellow junior Andrew Willett was enthusiastic about the upcoming season.
“We done a lot more conditioning than in the past,” said Willett. “We worked more on our passing in order to get our possession game a lot better. We also are working on positioning to find each other’s strong suit. I look forward to working with our coach, she’s doing a great job and I’m eager to get the season started.”
“I’ve played soccer since the second grade,” said Harrist, a senior. “It was more of a ‘have fun’ time for me. I was not very good back then, but now that I see it, I’m happy to see how well I have progressed over the years.”
“When I first found out that the last coach couldn’t come because he resigned, I brought the kids along during the summer,” Harrist said. “As the summer came along, the numbers increased.”
Colton Toms is a freshman who figures prominently for the Blazers. He is joined by fellow freshmen Keenan Othersen and Gavin McCoy, who are looking to help build up a solid program in the future.
“I want to incorporate a more aggressive style of play. I’m looking forward to seeing them being more defensive and aggressive to attack the ball,” Bourne said. “I don’t think the previous coaches have done anything like that at all, so my goal is to change that. The boys should believe in themselves, and I think we have a stronger team than in the past.”
National Trail soccer’s first regular season game will occur on Saturday, Aug. 20, at Meadowdale. An earlier game scheduled for Monday, Aug. 15, against Eaton, was postponed due to heavy rains and will be rescheduled for a later date.
Reach Oliver Sanders at 937-683-4062 or on Twitter @osanders_RH