TENNERTON – The new-look Buckhannon-Upshur boys’ soccer team took to the field on Monday for their first preseason practice of the year.
With the loss of eight seniors from last year’s 7-6-1 team, the 2021 version off the soccer Bucs will look a lot different than its predecessor.
But for Buckhannon-Upshur head coach Mike Donato, he sees that as an opportunity for new players to step up this season and is using this first week of practice to evaluate who those candidates might be.
“The main objective for the first week is to complete player evaluations,” remarked Donato. “Each session has several objectives ranging from conditioning, technical skills, game tactics, and attitude and work ethic.”
Donato welcomed just 19 players to the first day of practice on Monday, a number that is much lower than he was hoping for, and it appears the low numbers will result in no junior varsity program this year.
“The one downfall we've had so far is participation this year,” noted Donato. “We're down to a total roster of 19, which eliminates our junior varsity program. Although that creates more competition for varsity playing time, those not prepared to make that jump are going to lose out on game experience which a junior varsity program offers.”
Donato said he was pleased with the summer sessions and how those allowed his team to be ahead of the curve with the start of official preseason practices.
“Since we had great attendance during the three-week period, we were really able to hit the ground running this week, moving more toward putting the pieces together for a varsity roster and setting depth at each position,” remarked Donato. “We had some of the best attendance we've had in years. Starting in June with lifting and conditioning and into the three-week period in July, we had great consistency. Players have come into the regular season in great shape and with a great understanding of what direction we're taking the program this season. One of our expectations this week is to see if players took the coaching instruction over the three-week period and can apply it to the drills and small-sided games now.”
Donato is using this first week acclimating his freshmen and first-year players to the way things are done at the high school level and to teach them the history of the tradition-rich program.
“The main expectation this week is to get players acclimated to our way of doing things, especially for our freshmen and first year players,” stated Donato. “There's a lot of responsibility that comes with being a part of the Buckhannon-Upshur soccer program, so we need to make sure our players understand that. We spend time educating our players on our history and the legacy of our program.”
The Bucs will have their first taste of action on Aug. 14 when they visit Brooke for a scrimmage.