TENNERTON – The Buckhannon-Upshur soccer Buccaneers started their fall practice on Monday as veteran head coach Mike Donato welcomed 25 players to the opening day session.
“We'll be carrying a total roster of 25,” remarked Donato. “One of the recommendations from the WVSSAC is to limit varsity game day rosters to around 18 players, which for us works great. It gives all players a goal to strive for to make those rosters and places more value on our player evaluations.”
The 2020 Buccaneers will be looking to build off of a 16-4-2 season from last year.
Despite a solid nucleus of players returning, the Bucs also lost a great deal of talent via graduation last year making for what Donato hopes is a competitive preseason.
“Everything is wide open position wise,” stated Donato. “Even though our upperclassmen came in with a lot of varsity experience, we lost some key starters to graduation, so every spot is up for grabs. Plus, we have a big freshman class coming in this year and those guys have worked really hard this summer to prove they deserve a shot at a varsity spot.”
Donato said this first week of practice is for his Bucs simply to get back into the routine of things.
“This week our first goal is to get our players back in a routine,” noted Donato. “Although we had great attendance during off-season conditioning and our three-week period, this will be the first time we've had the entire team together. Our players were made aware of our goals and expectations during the summer so this will be their chance to show us if they are up to the tasks we set for them. This first week is when we also begin our initial player evaluations. Each player will receive a scored evaluation based on performance in drills and conditioning throughout the week. We also made our players aware of our game and season goals, which we keep posted in the locker room.”
Donato said he was pleased with the turnout of his Bucs during their three-week period, which gave his team an idea of where each player was developmentally and gave them some things they would need to work on before they came back to camp this week.
“I want to see if those players took those coaching points from the three-week period and improved those skills,” remarked Donato. “Because of the extended conditioning period, I also expect our players to have higher fitness levels than usual for the first few day of the season.”
Donato also stated that the three-week period allowed for him and his team to get accustomed to the guidelines set by the state and the WVSSAC during this COVID-19 pandemic.
“I've gotten used to wearing a mask and wiping everything down,” said Donato. “I feel like it's just a part of my uniform at this point, but we have been more than willing to do whatever it takes to do our part to help us have a season. I have to commend our players and coaching staff for following the guidelines and helping any way they can.”
Donato’s staff will have one change to it this fall as former assistant Taylor Stacy took over the cross-country program at the high school.
Replacing Stacy will be Colin Cope.
“We added a new coach this offseason in Colin Cope,” noted Donato. “Coach Cope currently works as a city police officer and will come a few days a week to work with our goalkeepers. Colin was a collegiate keeper so his experience will be a great addition to our staff.”
Brian Brandish will return for his second season as assistant coach for the Bucs.
The Bucs will open their season Sept. 3 as they host Lincoln at 5:30 p.m.