November 6, 2009 9:09:00 AM
CALEDONIA -- Everything came together last season for Morgan Mansfield and the Caledonia High School boys soccer team.
The first-year coach needed time to mold a senior-laden team into form, but things took off when the pieces solidified.
This season, the Confederates will have to find a way to replace six seniors who played key roles in a 14-5 school-best season and a trip to the Class 4A North Half State title game.
Even though Caledonia won''t be as experienced as it was last season, Mansfield is excited about what his team can accomplish this season.
"We''ll rebuild a little bit, but not too much because a lot of those guys got to play some minutes last year in junior varsity and in varsity," Mansfield said. "We are just so young that if we get our leadership up a little bit I think we''ll be all right."
The Confederates will have to replace Taylor Chisolm, Tyler Pounders, Seth Wood, Tyler Aldridge, and defenders Cory Hayes and Zack Boyer. Those seniors were key ingredients on a team that advanced to the North Half State title match. Eventual state champion Pearl defeated Caledonia 6-1.
"It all depends on the kids," Mansfield said. "I think they got a taste of what success can really be like here, and that is a perfect situation. ... It is going to be tough. Those seniors were leaders. The talent is there. The leadership is slowly getting there because we''re going to have to rely on our senior and those juniors to lead the team."
Chisolm, who scored a school-record 28 goals last season, Pounders, and Wood went to East Mississippi to play soccer, while Aldridge went to EMCC to play baseball.
Caledonia will get its first official look at its new lineups on Saturday when it plays host to Aberdeen and New Hope. The girls teams also will be in action for an event that kicks off at 11 a.m. and will run until the Caledonia-New Hope boys match at 4:50 p.m.
The teams will play 40-minute halves for JV and varsity.
The Confederates will be without five players for their first match against Aberdeen at 1:30 p.m. Those missing players will participate in the Class 4A State cross country meet in Clinton.
But with 31 players, including seven seventh- and eighth-graders and 16 freshmen and sophomores, Mansfield will have plenty of combinations to use.
Frank Spruill, who saw limited time on the varsity level last season, is the team''s only senior. Juniors Evan Wester, Brandon Webber, Kye Van Someren, and Kevin Kugel and sophomore Nick May saw considerable action last season.
Regardless of the team''s experience level, Mansfield said a key will be how quickly his team sees the game like he does. He said the team had some ups and downs last season before the players matured and things started to roll.
Mansfield knows things might not happen as fast this season, but he is excited about his team''s fitness level and its depth.
"They have worked so long together that (the inexperience) doesn''t bother them," Mansfield said. "Pearl won a state championship last year with nine juniors. Age in soccer is more maturity. If those kids are mature enough to handle going down a goal or being up two and being able to hold on to a lead and take some ups and down, that is good. They look at North State and they''re thinking we want to be in the championship this year. That''s great. It''s great to have a high goal like that. Now they know they have to work to get there."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.