Losing your leading scorer before the soccer season even starts is unsettling, but second-year Wood River High School boys' varsity soccer coach Farrell Swain is looking positively at the season prospects for 2005.
For one thing, she's got 12 seniors on the 19-player varsity roster, including top sniper Austin McCann (21 goals in 2004), who is recovering from knee surgery and isn't expected back on the team until October.
Six of the seniors are returning from last year's varsity, and the other six got plenty of time on the 9-1-1 JV of 2004.
"It's a huge loss because Audie is a great center-mid player. But we have a pretty sound team with strong leadership. Our challenge as coaches is putting people together and getting them in the right positions," said Swain, named last fall's Great Basin Conference West "Coach of the Year."
Swain (15-3-1) is entering her fourth year with the Wood River soccer program. Junior varsity coach is Matt Phillips.
She is excited about the program's turnout of 45 players. The varsity includes 19 players—12 seniors, five juniors and two sophomores. Captains are Spencer Cordovano and Bryce Newcomb, seniors who made the Great Basin Conference All-Star second team.
The team is gung-ho about having another winning season, which would be the ninth straight winning campaign for the Hailey program. The #1 long-term goal, Swain said, is returning to the state tourney for the ninth consecutive year.
Standing in the way is Burley, with a strong returning cast of players from 2004. The Bobcats snapped Wood River's two-season, 23-game unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory in Hailey in the Great Basin West championship game, then ousted Wood River 2-0 at state.
"Burley will probably be our biggest challenge," Swain said.
Even without McCann's offense, Swain thinks the midfield is fast and talented enough to push the ball down the flanks and serve it into the middle. The defense looks solid in front of two goalkeepers.
Midfield wings are senior Bill Dankanyin—last year's JV Most Valuable Player—plus senior John Anderson, junior Max Kwok, sophomores Axel Peterson and Ross Parsons.
Senior Spencer Flade is the offensive center midfielder, and junior Cory Rutkowski the defensive center midfielder. Flade topped last fall's JV with 15 goals and 4 assists.
Swain's offense is a 4-4-2, with two strikers up top. They are captain Cordovano (7 goals last year) and junior Carl Jablonski (11 goals). "Carl has a nose for the goal and Spencer has stepped it up and shown leadership for us," said Swain.
Jablonski and McCann were Great Basin Conference first-team All-Stars last fall.
The goalkeepers, both seniors, are Jesse Stark and Ken Mauro. Sweeper is senior Garrett Leo, stopper is captain Newcomb, and the outside backs are seniors Dixon Mooseau and Michael Dale. Dale was JV "Best Defender."
Swain said about sweeper Leo, "Garrett has grown so much in the program over four years. He is diligent and hard working. Michael Dale should be a fast defender for us."
Other players in the varsity mix are senior Joey Stevenson and juniors Travis Amick and Ben Gourlay.
Wood River opens its 16-game regular season Saturday, Aug. 27 with non-conference games in Twin Falls. Then the Minico Spartans arrive in Hailey for the Great Basin Conference West opening games Wednesday, Aug. 31.
Twin Falls is always problematic for the Wolverines. The teams tied 3-3 in last year's season opener staged in Hailey. In the soccer series dating back to 1986, 5A Twin Falls holds a 19-12-6 advantage and 4A Wood River has won only two of the last seven meetings.
Although Wood River and longtime rival The Community School didn't play in 2004 due to a scheduling quirk, the teams are set to clash Saturday, Oct. 8 in Hailey. Wood River (17-4-2 home) holds a 30-18-3 advantage and has won four straight over the Cutthroats.