Don't expect another 4-11 season from the Farmington boys soccer team.
With 11 letterwinners back from last year and a crop of talented freshmen ready to add to the mix, head coach Julian Buss is confident his second season at the Tiger helm will be more successful than his first.
"This roster is loaded with year-round soccer players who know how to play the game and who have been working together on the field for years," Buss said. "Every player on this team knows how to play the game.... They play together in the fall, they play indoor in the winter, they play spring and summer soccer. These boys are ready to go."
The collective experience of the roster has allowed Buss to focus early-season practices on team chemistry and game situations, rather than on basic fundamentals. He figures that change alone should have his team ready to have some success, starting with tonight's season opener against Faribault at Tiger Stadium.
"I know that the boys' expectations for this season are higher and so are mine. This is a team that I feel can compete with anyone from Day 1," he said. "Who knows what will happen throughout the season, but I believe that our team has the potential to finish top three in the conference and section. There will be some close games and tough play ahead, but we have what we need on this team to win."
Winning games is just one of Buss's goals for the season. The other, increasing numbers in the soccer program, has already been accomplished. After fielding just two teams last year, the Tigers will fill out three full rosters this year at the varsity, junior varsity and B-Squad levels.
"Having a strong JV team like we do this year is so essential to ensuring you are ready for this year's and next year's varsity season," he said. "I hope that in the next year or two we continue to encourage kids to come out and play the game they love, and are able to run four levels by adding a ninth-grade level."
Up front, the Tigers will look to senior all-conference forward Justin Thelen, who led the team in goals last season. Junior returner Cole Landwehr will also see time on the offensive end.
The Tigers feature plenty of experience at midfield, where senior Christian Thao, an honorable mention all-conference selection last season, senior Aaron Dahl, juniors Brandon Scott and Tyler Vue and sophomores Tyler Petter-McCauley and Reid Wolf are all returning letter-winners. Senior Michael Moser is back in the midfield mix after missing most of last season due to injury and talented freshmen Blake Smith and Jared Wolt are also expected to see plenty of playing time.
Junior captain Sam Leske, senior Elijah Kierski and junior Michael Ricker are all returning defensive players for the Tigers. They will be joined by first-year senior Zach Wyatt and freshman Jeffery Hanson.
The Tigers' biggest transition will be between the posts, where junior Chad Stivers will try to fill the void left by the graduation of all-conference goalkeeper and team MVP Derian Vietti. Scott is the leading candidate to fill the back-up roll.