Miners boys soccer prepares for success (w/ video)
On Monday, snow hemmed in the turf at Park City High School’s Dozier Field and temperatures hovered just above freezing. But nevertheless, the Miners boys soccer team took to the field for tryouts.
With only a week before the first game of the season against Hillcrest, the Miners couldn’t afford any weather delays.
The team worked through fitness drills before breaking off into one-versus-one games while coaches kept notes on the athletes’ performances. All told, there were 49 athletes — not the biggest squad the team has had, but more than Head Coach Tom Merchant has seen since he joined three years ago.
“We should have a freshman-sophomore team, a JV team and a varsity team,” Merchant said, adding that the teams aren’t tiered, but rather based on age group. Freshmen can either earn a spot on the varsity team, or play with their class.
In addition to numbers, the team has a core of seasoned players that helped the varsity team go undefeated in region play last season, including Kailer Spangenburg — the team’s lead scorer — Adam Hodgson and Johnny Flitton, who both played in the team’s back three, all-state player Nick Burnz, and center midfielder Forest Kunz.
Merchant said though he knows most of the players trying out, what kind of team they will form is another question.
“It’s really too early,” Merchant said. “Last year we played with a three-back and it worked for us in getting more people forward, but those wing players have to be of a certain mentality and fitness level. You don’t always have that.”
He said he was considering a 4-3-3 formation but needed more time to assess the team before making any decisions.
The team will also introduce a new keeper this season, after Andrew Guthery, who was outstanding last year, graduated.
According to Flitton, the team has three capable replacements stepping up from the JV squad in juniors Aidin O’Brian and Eric Fagerback, and sophomore Wes Hoglin, who will compete for the starting position.
Merchant said the team will start off playing matches against larger schools, then will take a trip to St. George to play in warm weather before starting region play. And while he doesn’t have any specific games marked on his calendar, Flitton and Hodgson both singled out Juan Diego.
Hodgson described the Soaring Eagles as “the heart breakers of our season” last year, after they defeated the Miners in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs.
According to Merchant, that defeat was the result of playing a zone defense all season, then coming up against a highly talented striker. The coach said he didn’t want to see that happen again, and planned on training the team in both zone and man defense.
The Miners will move up into Class 4A this season, which will provide another test as they compete with larger and different schools.
“I’m excited,” Flitton said. “If we want to compete with these teams, it means we have to work harder, and it means we become better overall. And I’m excited for that, to work with my teammates against better teams.”
As a senior, Hodgson had a clear vision for how he wants the season to go.
“Winning it all,” he said. And in that regard, a tough region — including two games against Juan Diego — could be instructive.
“The key this year is, we have a really tough region, so if we can be successful in region, we may get a high seed in playoffs,” Hodgson said.
He said the tough teams in Region 11 could condition the Miners for success.
“Then we can have a deep run,” he said. “It’s all about the season.”
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It’s been a rough season for Park City, but a taste of the postseason could pay huge dividends in the future.