By Clay Sidenbender | Echo
All eyes will be on the men's soccer team this season as they take the field as a much younger and almost unrecognizable team.
The Trojans graduated nine seniors this past season including offensive stars Wes Shupe, Sam Hardy, Lewis Nisbet, Gonzalo Iglesias and Gabe Saliba.
Gary Ross is heading into his 15th season as head coach. He laid out the two expectations he has for his Trojans to function as a team and then, the one overall goal for the season.
"In terms of how we do what we do, one is, 'How can I be the best possible teammate I can be?'" Ross said. "And the second is, 'How can I get a little bit better today?'"
Ross' goal for his Trojans this season is to place at least third in Crossroads League, but Ross is holding his team accountable to make the goal for top three in conference play to stay on the safe side.
Junior forward Josiah Wieland thinks clinching a spot in the top three in conference is achievable. If all goes as planned for the Trojans, he says their next goal would be to play in and host at least one tournament game.
"The last couple of years, we barely snuck into the conference tournament in the end," Wieland said.
The last time Taylor men's soccer won a Crossroads League tournament game was the 2014 season and they have not qualified for the NAIA tournament since 2011 season.
Ross named off senior center back Andrew Johnson, senior central midfielder Jeremiah Rader, junior holding midfielder Juan Alberghetti and senior center back Charbel Salako as four players who will take over as stars of the team.
"In terms of field players, Rader's probably the one that's going to have the most impact," Ross said. "In terms of scoring and assists . . . but we have some young guys to that are really good too."
As the new faces on the team, there are 11 players, seven freshmen and four transfers. Ross said forwards freshmen James McBride and Paul McBride in particular are two players that can already play at a really high level. James McBride has scored one goal and has one assist, while his brother Paul McBride has two goals.
With the class of freshmen coming in, Wieland said the freshman players help relieve many of the starters who need a rest during games.
"I think they bring a lot," Wieland said. "At least in the two years I've been here . . . they haven't had to take time or anything . . . it allows us to be pretty deep in each position."
Wieland said the 2018-19 freshmen class is the most talented group coming in and have already contributed a lot.
Even though the team graduated many of their starting forwards and midfielders last year, Wieland said every team member is not set at a position, so they can fill in the missing spots. Aside from the tactical aspect of the game, Wieland said the team's culture has changed significantly from last season to this season, such as the comradery.
"We're all gelling a lot better than we did last year," Wieland said. "Obviously, that's translated onto the field, so I think that's really important."
The Trojans played Trinity International on Monday, August 27, and lost 3-1. They look to bounce back with a win next Monday, September 3 at Concordia University.
Ross is very optimistic about the team's chances as they roll into conference play in a couple weeks.
"We're young," Ross said. "We've got a lot of good, dynamic athletes. If they be good teammates and play together each day, by the time conference hits, they'll be a team."