MARQUETTE - It looks like an obvious rebuilding year for the Marquette Senior High School boys soccer team.
The Redmen lost a majority of last year's players to graduation, including a pair who combined to score 36 goals, not to mention last year's No. 1 goaltender.
But Marquette has a program that more often reloads rather than rebuilding even after a 13-3-4 campaign last fall that culminated with 12 straight wins.
Marquette Senior High school’s Cole Rieboldt tries to get the ball away from Kingsford’s Jeremy Milinski during the first half of a game played in September of last season at the Kaufman Sports Complex in Marquette. (Journal file photo by Adelle Whitefoot)
"We had the most ever try out for our team - 62 kids," head coach Matt Tebo said about this year's boys who will be placed on the varsity and two JV teams. "It may take a couple weeks before we're really clicking."
He concedes that he's got his work cut out for him trying to replace striker Aaron Bender's 26 goals and 14 assists, along with center midfielder Kyle Carriere's 10 goals and 16 assists.
But he has at least a half dozen players he thinks can do it.
"What my hope is instead of having one guy score 26 goals, we have six as a group that can score that many," Tebo said.
A group of four front-line scorers, known as strikers or forwards, will be joined by a pair of experienced players from the second wave of offense - the center midfielders - who can add their own scoring punch.
"We have plenty of time to give our young players a chance to mature, as we'll really be counting on our center midfielders to score early," Tebo said.
That will be accomplished most often by pushing the forwards wide on the field and letting center midfielders Billy Mullett and Andrew Banitt move up and fill the void in front of the opposition goal. Senior Nick LaJoye, another player with varsity experience, and sophomore Hunter Shaneberger also man this position.
"Our center midfielders had about a half-dozen goals between them last season," Tebo said about Mullett, a senior cocaptain in his third year on the varsity, and Banitt, a sophomore in his second season with the varsity.
Outside midfielders, or wings, include juniors Cole Rieboldt and Bryce Genovese and seniors Marty Gray, Ryan Kuzmak and Dylan Dowrick. They can also add to the scoring potential.
"We emphasize possession soccer, so a lot of guys are called upon to set up shots or take them themselves," Tebo said.
The coach got to try out various formations on Wednesday at a scrimmage tripleheader in the Detroit suburbs against several teams from that area, getting shut out in the first practice game, scoring one goal in the second and two goals in the finale.
The Redmen's strikers consist of two freshmen, Logan Zueger and Lehomm Pickard, with two older players currently nursing minor injuries - sophomore Max Bednarek and senior Evan Kyle, who are also new to the varsity.
"We're looking for maturity and composure in front of the goal now," Tebo said.
The other end of the field may be even stronger with junior Tony Lackey the confirmed No. 1 goaltender. He earned plenty of playing time last season subbing for the now graduated Hayden Rajala, who missed a number of games due to conflicts with the Marquette Electricians junior hockey team.
"Tony has a great amount of experience," Tebo said. "He communicates well and his reactions are incredible."
The coach added that Lackey can take on even the best strikers one-on-one and have a good shot at stopping them.
"He's our defensive captain," Tebo said.
Working forward from Lackey is junior sweeper Craig Ekstrum, backed up by sophomore Esten Potvin, as the last line of defense, then two outside defenders to be picked from Potvin, sophomore Mike Mlsna, junior Chris Amundsen and seniors Alex Shahbazi, Micah McCall and Kyle King.
And plunked right in the middle of everything is stopper and senior co-captain Chad Ross, with LaJoye as a backup.
Tebo said as the first line of defense, Ross is counted upon to direct an opposition ballhandler to one sideline or the other or sometimes even to keep him bottled up in the middle to get double-teamed.
The Redmen open their regular season this weekend in Rhinelander, Wis., at the Hodag Invitational, facing three Wisconsin teams - Stevens Point at 6 p.m. on Friday, Stevens Point Pacelli at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday and Wausau West at 5:30 p.m. on Saturday.
MSHS then returns to its Kaufman Sports Complex field to host Northland Pines of Eagle River, Wis., at 6 p.m. on Tuesday. The only other home game before Labor Day is against Minocqua Lakeland Union (Wis.) at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.