By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — After a year off, Waverly returned to the soccer pitch in 2018 and posted a 1-11 record. But what a difference a year makes, says second-year coach Eric Ryck.
(Waverly opens the 2019 campaign Thursday when it hosts Whitney Point.)
“We’ve gotten bigger, stronger, and faster since the end of last season,” said Ryck. “We have three kids in our back line over 6-foot tall … it’s something we lacked in the back end last year. The size is going to help us.
“Last year, we had six freshman, who looked like freshman,” added Ryck. “This year, we have a lot sophomores and they’re big boys, and they’re athletic. They compliment the rest of our players really well.”
Ryck also believes this team’s work ethic and attitude will be a major strength.
“These guys have great attitudes. They give 100-percent effort all the time, and they always have a great mind-set. They are willing to learn, and they never quit.
“They don’t focus on what’s happening on the scoreboard,” said Ryck. “It was the same last year, you can’t tell if we’re winning or losing by the looks on the faces of these kids.
“It’s a great group of guys. They are all really close friends, and they’re happy to be playing soccer,” added Ryck. “That mindset carries over, and they support each other on the field, and through each game. That alone is a strength for this team that’s going to help them learn and grow throughout the season.”
Ryck is hoping for an improved record in 2019, but says that’s not the only way to judge progress in building a program.
“My hopes are we can shoot for .500,” he said. “Anything above that would be outstanding.
“That said, my focus isn’t on where we end up, or what the scoreboard says as long as we’re getting better throughout the season,” added Ryck.
Sophomore Cameron McIsaac will be in goal again this year, while Jake Blair will play right-wingback and Nick VanHouten will play on the left side. Declan Murphy will start at right center-back, and Brennan Traub will start at left center-back.
Austin Ingham will get the nod at left defensive center-mid, and Josiah Golden will start at right defensive center-mid.
McIsaac's efforts in the goal kept the Wolverines close in several games last year. This year, Ryck believes he’ll get plenty of help.
“I think our back six are good, and work really well together,” he said. “If we can get our midfield to help out, and get in the mindset of getting in front of the ball if we lose it, I think we can give Cameron (McIsaac) a break.”
Nathan Ryck will start at center-mid, with Peyton Bowen at right-mid, and Caden Hollywood at left-mid. Rylan Laforest will start at striker.
Davis Croft and Nalen Carling will come off the bench to fill in in the midfield and on defense, while Caleb Ovedovitz will see action at striker, Oscar Williams will see time on defense, and Ryan Clark will see time in the midfield.
The Wolverines struggled to score goals last season, but Ryck believes the offense will be improved this year.
“I think we’ll have less problems scoring this year,” he said. “The speed we have up top with Rylan LaForest, and in the midfield with Nate Ryck and Peyton Bowen is experienced, and they work well together.
“They have really good foot skills, move forward well together, and have great field vision,” added Ryck. “I think we’ll create more scoring opportunities this year.”
Despite returning nearly in tact this season, Ryck said the Wolverines are still young.
“Our lack of experience is still a concern,” he said. “We just aren’t comfortable on the ball yet.
“We noticed it at our scrimmages,” noted Ryck. “We tend to panic and make rushed decisions, and that play becomes contagious. We end up losing the ball and constantly playing in a panic situation.
“We’re working on getting calmer on the ball. After I mentioned it at the scrimmage, we relaxed and did very well. We created a lot of shots.
“The soccer IQ for these kids isn’t quite where it should be, but we’re working hard to get them there,” added Ryck.
AROUND THE IAC SOUTH LARGE SCHOOL
“I think it’s going to be a fun division, and I think it’s going to be very competitive,” said Ryck. “A lot of the other teams have had a lot of turnover, and we haven’t experienced that turnover. I think it’s going to even the field out.
“Obviously we’re going to struggle against the perennial powerhouse like Trumansburg and Lansing, but all in all, I think we can compete,” he added.
PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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