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Patriots Banking on Experience

August 22, 2013

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS –

With the inaugural season of Patrick Henry Community College soccer out of the way, the focus and approach to this season for the Patriots’ men’s soccer team is very different.phcc_men's_sok_team

Not only is the tone more serious, but the numerous returnees for head coach Scott Haywood’s squad know what to expect as they look to challenge the best Region X has to offer in the National Junior College Athletic Association.

Inexperience played a vital role in the team’s overall record of 9-10-1 last season. However, with a full year of adjusting to the system, the coach and the competition, the 2013 Patriots already expect a brighter season.

“Last year, with the exception of maybe two or three players, that was all the experience we had playing college soccer,” Haywood said. “Everyone was either directly out of high school or a year or two removed from it and I can remember their eyes being the size of quarters the first time we played Louisburg. I think that will be our advantage this year is having the experience. I know the guys are excited to play and challenge someone other than themselves.”

Fifteen players return this season, and with a fresh group of first-year players, Haywood has more than enough depth. That, and the ability to work with numerous combinations on the pitch, has Haywood excited to see what this year’s team can accomplish.

He will find out Saturday as PHCC hosts USC-Lancaster in the season opener at 1 p.m. at the Smith River Sports Complex.

“We put it into the heads of the returnees that we really need to push harder this year,” said second-year player Ulises Rios. “This is our last year here so we need to give it our all.”

The main goal is to beat Louisburg College, which went on to win the region and eventually lost 1-0 in the national championship to Tyler Junior College. PHCC lost both meetings with Louisburg last season getting blanked 3-0 and 5-0.

But beyond challenging the favorite to win Region X again, the Patriots are simply looking to score more goals.

“We missed so many opportunities to put a game away last season,” Haywood said. “When we leave the good teams that we have to play in our region in a game and not put them away, we’re sunk. So I knew recruiting I had to find some finishers. And then to get Bill Ison as our keeper was huge. With our core group of defenders, we can keep the ball out of the net. Now we just have to put it in the net.”

While finding the back of the net was challenging for the Patriots in close games last season, Haywood also noted that he isn’t looking for one or two players to carry the load. He expects scoring to come from multiple positions and players this season. PHCC has the ability to score from it’s outside fullbacks, center midfielders and its rotation of strikers.

It starts by working a variety of formations and styles of play that second-year player Jesus Martinez thinks this team can play.

“Coach has seen so many styles of play, that he knows how to put the right players together to bring out the right combinations,” Martinez said. “We have a lot of long ball, through ball and quick pace styles of play that it makes our team that much better. We don’t just rely on one style.”

The added hunger of the returning players was something PHCC lacked last season. The Achilles heal of last year’s team was the inability to play a full 90 minutes without up a number of late goals in defeat. Of the 10 losses, six of them came by one goal and all six of those losses came inside the final 5-10 minutes.

“I think we showed the ability to stay in games,” former Martinsville High School standout Bryson Collins said. “I know we lost a couple of games inside the last 10 minutes, but I think we were able to stay competitive for 80 minutes straight. I think we brought in some people that will help us finish those kind of games and get us some wins.”

Better ball possession is something Haywood said will help in late game situations. His style of building from the back with a solid unit in front of Ison should provide him with the ability to control the pace of the game. Also, Haywood hopes to be able to change the direction of attack throughout the course of a match so that teams can’t gameplan for certain players.

And then there’s communication. With a season to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each other, even first-year player Francisco Garcia said he has noticed a good bond between everyone in the first few weeks of camp.

“I think we communicate well and talk to each other all over the field,” Garcia said. “We’ve been working on that a lot over the last two weeks, and I think it will help us a lot throughout.”

Fellow first-year teammate Daniel Maldonado also said he is excited to be a part of this team.

“This team is strong now, but we as first-year players can do the little things to make this team even stronger,” he said.

With a year to understand the college game and the opponents they play, Haywood said his team is optimistic that it can challenge for a Region X title.

If PHCC’s optimism isn’t misplaced, its now up to the rest of the region to not overlook the Patriots in 2013.

Filed under: Men's Soccer

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