Given the pedigree of the opponents this first week of the season, McPherson High boys soccer coach Chris Adrian must feel like he’s preparing more like it’s the postseason.
The Bullpups start their week by playing Tuesday at Newton, then have another difficult road match on Thursday at Rose Hill. Both playoff-worthy schools have strong traditions.
“It's definitely not an easy schedule to start the season, but I'm OK with that,” said Adrian, whose team was 13-5 last year. “I think it's important we open with some good competition so we can get a better idea of what we need to improve on and what our strengths are going to be against good teams.”
Newton and Rose Hill certainly will expose weaknesses if given the opportunity.
“It's also Newton and Rose Hill's first week of the season and I know the amount of work my team has been putting in during the summer and first two weeks, so I'm confident we will be ready to compete,” Adrian said. “Newton and Rose Hill are typically two of the most physical teams we play against and that physicality was something we struggled with last year playing with such a young team. We've been working hard at improving that part of our game and it will be put to the test.”
One of the big concerns going into the offseason was replacing goalie Tanner Rose, but Adrian thinks that question has been answered.
“Nathan Lloyd is our keeper and has some big shoes to fill with the loss of Tanner Rose,” Adrian said. “He has been looking really solid in practice and as he becomes more comfortable in the net I think he is really going to have a breakout year.”
Adrian said some of last year’s support players are ready to become leaders now that Patrick Munsey and Andric McGill have graduated as both were All-State last year.
“There have been several non-starters from last year that have significantly improved and will be playing lots of varsity minutes this year,” Adrian said. “Rhett Edmonson, Tyler Hoxie, Sammie Jaime and Jael Jaime have really impressed and look much more comfortable on the field now that they are sophomores.”
The Bullpups play in the Maize South Invitational next week before finally coming home on Sept. 12 to host Winfield, a team they have developed a nice rivalry with as it's one of the best-coached teams they play.