Widgetized Section

Go to Admin » Appearance » Widgets » and move Gabfire Widget: Social into that MastheadOverlay zone

Castle expects technical and fundamental improvement

By DAVID GRAVELY

sports@southwesttimes.com

 

When Pulaski County soccer first took the field under new head coach Chris Castle last season, it was understood that they were about to begin a rebuilding process. By the end of the season, things were truly beginning to pick up.

 

“We lost our first round playoff game to Salem last season,” Castle said. “We lost, but that game was a turning point for our program. It was a preview of good things to come.”

 

The Spartans scored first, but the Cougars tightened up and tied the game on a goal by Frank Lopez. Regulation time ended, sending the game into overtime.

 

An injury to a key player in the overtime period was costly, and then storms moved into the area forcing an hour and a half delay. The Cougars had gained momentum before the delay and injury, but with the rest gained during the delay Salem came out firing again. Overtime ended with the score still tied. The second overtime ended the same way. Midway through the third overtime the Spartans were able to sneak a hard shot past the outstretched hands of the Cougar keeper to end the game.

 

“We’ve had laser-intense focus on the fundamentals over the past several seasons, and that is going to pay off,” Castle said. “Our technical ability for 2018 from top to bottom has been elevated. This team is deep with skilled and experienced players. We had 15 of our 19 players on the varsity roster playing club soccer in the fall. Between the JV squad and varsity there were seven players on the NRU team in Blacksburg. That’s high level soccer. The core of our juniors played on an All-Tournament team with SWVA Rush, earning three second place finishes in tournaments across several states.”

 

The team has held preseason training sessions since Nov. 28, completing 38 days of work before the first official day of practice. Those sessions were a mix of weightlifting, cardio and agility training and ball handling.

 

“The turnout for our workouts was very high,” Castle said. “When we finally reached tryouts, we had 52 young men competing for 39 roster spots. The second worst day of the year is cut day. The worst is the day you have to say goodbye to the seniors.”

 

So what does Castle see in his squad this year?

 

“With an experienced roster we look to be more multifaceted in our attack,” he said. “We have good overall team speed, so we will be able to press our opponents. We have the ability to change and dictate the tempo of the game. We will continue to possess the ball when running our base formation of the 4-2-3-1, however when conditions dictate we will run a more attacking 4-3-3 formation. This will allow us to condense the space our opponents operate in. We want to regain possession of the ball high up the pitch for quick strikes.”

“At this point we’ve settled into a backline defense,” he continued.  “Returning starters from last year on the backline will be senior captain Cole Duncan and junior captain Evan Danner.  They will anchor the backline at both center back positions. Danner is tall and athletic. Duncan is fast and athletic. Both are strong. They make a good pair. Joining them at left outside back will be junior Adam Bennett. Adam had a very good JV season last year on the backline. On the right side will be sophomore Cody Roop. Cody has really improved the physical aspects of his game. He’s more fit and has really improved his speed. Last year we gave up 50 goals on the season.  For us to be successful this total must decrease.”

Castle is pleased to have two quality goal keepers on the roster. Returning senior starter Nathan Rice was an All-Conference 24 Honorable Mention last season. Junior Derek Akers is also very skilled.

“Either could start at any time,” Castle said. “We’ll go with how things look each game. They both have individual strengths and they push each other. They both have outstanding work ethics.”

Junior Justin Knick will be at the defensive holding mid position, where he was second team All-Conference last season.

Evan Sumervell will see time at center mid and outside mid. Luke Harmon, captain Jake Winesett, Jacob Warrington, Hunter Quesenberry and Shaun King will all see time at the outside mid positions.

Riley Morre will be the attacking mid. Cade Compton will see time as well there. Frank Lopez, a first team All-Conference selection last season, will be one forward. Parker Arnold and Chance Martin will see time there as well.

 

Ryan Castle, another first team selection last season, will see time at multiple positions, but will spend much of his time as a center mid.

Along with Chris Castle returning for his second season as the head coach, Michael Moore will be back as the JV head coach. Matt Dremel will serve as the varsity assistant. Jackson Sanderlin worked with the team through the preseason, but accepted a job in Virginia Beach and left the team March 5.

“The River Ridge District is one of the toughest in the state in terms of soccer,” Castle said. “In order to compete we have to find small successes. As we build on those, the wins will come. This is a determined group and they have raised the standard of play within our program. The final hurdle is can they raise the expectations? I believe the can.”

Comments

comments

You must be logged in to post a comment Login