TENNERTON – Looking to build on their nine-win total of a season ago, Buckhannon-Upshur soccer head coach Mike Donato and his Buccaneers took to the grass and turf this week as they got their 2019 season underway on Monday.
The Bucs ended last year with a 9-10-3 record, where their season ended at the hands of University in the sectional championship.
Donato will have plenty of experience returning to improve on that mark with 16 of his 29 players returning from last year.
“We have 16 players that are coming back from last season,” noted Donato, who is beginning his 11th year at the helm of the Buccaneers. “Those players will bring leadership and varsity experience for our freshmen and first-year players.”
The total number is a little lower than where Donato would like it to be.
“In a perfect world, we would have about 35 players,” stated Donato. “That is an ideal number because we could maintain a full-time junior varsity roster and have enough to split practices and still have enough to complete most drills.”
One of the things Donato was looking for this first week from his Bucs was their mindset.
“Primarily, I am looking to see who has come into the season both mentally and physically prepared,” said Donato. “The testing and evaluations we complete allow us to see who has taken the time to improve over the summer and who has not. Plus, this first week gives us a chance to get a good look at our new players to see what they can offer us going forward. There's always a few new things I implement every year the first week as well. Whether it's a new drill or form of evaluation. we are always trying something new.”
Donato said that every position is open and to be earned by his Buccaneers this August.
“Absolutely,” he remarked. “The open competition is great to have the players bring their best every single practice. Even once we develop a depth chart and start placing guys in certain positions, we still have every spot up for grabs.”
Donato will patrol the sidelines with two new assistant coaches this season – Brian Brandish and Taylor Stacy.
“Both of these men have been a great addition to our program,” said Donato.
The Bucs will open their season Friday, Aug. 23 when they visit Ripley for a 6:30 p.m. contest.
They will open their home season Tuesday, Aug. 27 when they entertain Morgantown for a 5:30 p.m. clash.