The talent is there for a successful season.
The question for the Jefferson City soccer team is how all that talent will mesh together.
"The challenge for our team is to make sure everyone puts the team first," Jays coach Eddie Horn said as Jefferson City prepared for today's season opener at Quincy (Ill.) Notre Dame. "There are some guys on this team who want to play at the next level, which is great, but the team has to come first. We can't be playing for ourselves or we won't have as successful season as we should."
The Jays, coming off a 19-9 season that ended in the Class 3 sectionals, return seven starters. The majority of those returners are on the offensive side.
Marcus Woodruff and Mason Vonderhaar return for their senior seasons at forward, while seniors Aaron Crane and Nathan Luebbert are back in the midfield.
"Obviously with Woodruff back, with Vonderhaar back, with Crane back, with Luebbert back, we should be able to score some goals," Horn said. "But you always want to be solid in the back just in case you only need one to win."
Brandon Wiler, a senior, is the lone returning starter on the defensive end.
"We're looking to him for some leadership back there," Horn said.
Erich Sporleder, a sophomore, moves from the midfield to start at center back along with Wiler. Spencer Bone, another former midfielder, will start at right back as a junior. Keelson Blitz, a senior, will get the start on the left side today.
Alex Hilke, a senior, will get the start in goal, while sophomore Zach Brooks is the backup. The team currently doesn't have a goalkeeper coach.
"It's hard to get the training that they need," Horn said.
Logan Horn, a sophomore, will start alongside Luebbert at center midfield. Colton Acock, a sophomore, was slated to start on the left side at midfield, but was injured in the preseason. Jordan Carron, a sophomore, will start in his place.
The Jays don't have a lot of varsity experience on the bench.
Mervyn John, who scored 20-plus goals on the JV last season, will be a backup at forward along with fellow senior Hardy Kumeso. Backup midfielders include senior Dakota Acock and juniors Cody Boyce and Jastin Magallanes. Jason Myers, a sophomore, will be the primary reserve for all four defensive spots.
"I like what we're doing, we're getting ready to play the season," Horn said. "We've moved the ball fairly well, fairly fast.
"The only thing was nobody challenged our back line in the Jamboree and that's where there is some uncertainty. We're going to have to get into some games to see how strong we are back there."
The Jays had four teams drop off the schedule and with no other schools in the area to play, Jefferson City is now in the Kickapoo Tournament and has added Saint Louis University High to the slate.
"We're going to have our work cut out for us at Kickapoo and SLUH is always a quality team," Horn said. "I think when I looked at the ESPN Fab 50 poll, five of the 50 are on our schedule."
The varsity game today will begin at 5 p.m.
Jefferson City's first home game is Tuesday, Sept. 10, against Hickman.