Zach Harvey looks to change direction during a practice.
By BLAKE FAITH
The Mt. Zion boys soccer team is gearing up for its second season under Head Coach Scott Crawford. This year’s team is aiming to win the Apollo Conference title.
Coach Crawford said in the first week the team is playing well together, knocking the ball well, touches are good, but the team is still trying to get in game shape. Fitness will be key, but Coach Crawford thinks his team has come a long way.
During the off-season and in the first week of practice Coach Crawford has made his time to move off the ball and find open space and not for his players to end up in the same space.
Last year, the Braves finished their season in a 2-1 loss in a regional semifinal. The Braves graduated center defenders Logan Kendall and Jacob Zora. Coach Crawford said that defense is going to be key for his team and they’re having several people competing for the center back positions and getting his defense set. Defensively, players such as Greg Frazier, Brayden Traxler, Matthew Platzbecker and Thomas Konemaru are returning that all saw time back on the defense.
At goalkeeper, juniors Joshua Garrett and Carter Bahls will split time to start off the season, but Bahls could emerge as a center back for the Braves.
Offensively, the Braves return numerous goal scorers in Zach Harvey, Luke Shumaker, Hayden Shumaker, Kam Clark, Frazier and Evan Griffith. Coach Crawford said the emphasis has been for his players to shoot on-frame and low into the corner as well they’re ready for a rebound to finish at the net.
Harvey has taken on his role as a senior leader personally to make sure that everybody is playing to the best of their ability and keep everything positive. Harvey’s team goal is to win the Apollo Conference and his individual goal is to get better. Harvey is known for big moments such as the game-tying goal against Rochester in last year’s regional semifinals. Harvey wants to score more memorable goals like that as well as be remembered by his teammates and coaches as a positive teammate who makes everyone around him better.
Luke Shumaker has taken his leadership to help the freshman get acclimated to the team and how to play with the team on the field. Luke Shumaker’s goal is to win the Apollo Conference and individually stay away from injuries. Luke Shumaker wants to be remembered as a teammate who brought good morale and look back on this team as a team who wins a lot of games.
Coach Crawford has seven seniors on this year’s squad. Clark, Griffith, Platzbecker, Harvey, Luke Shumaker, Jadon O’Brien, Garrett Odom and Traxler will be expected to lead and be the key to the team’s success.
They’re the key,” Coach Crawford said. Those guys are the key. They’re the leadership on the field and leadership off the field. I don’t necessarily think that there’s one captain, two captains or three captains, I expect them all to lead. So, we will see how it works out.”
Coach Crawford said that a goal for this season is to win the Apollo Conference which is going to be tough. Teams such as Mahomet-Seymour, Mattoon and Lincoln are returning players that will also look to finish up top. Coach Crawford’s goal is to start the season and see where his team is and get better throughout the season.
“If we’re better at the end of the season, I’ll be so happy I’ll be tickled to death,” Coach Crawford said.
Coach Crawford’s overall message to readers and the community is to have the area come out and watch and support this team.
“The games could be, three to four, four to three defensively,” Coach Crawford said. We’re going to battle back there. Andhopefully we score a lot of goals.”
The Mt. Zion boys soccer team begins its season on August 22 on the road against Argenta-Oreana at 4:30 p.m.