A year ago, the Northwestern boys' soccer program went on to capture the Colonial League North Division title with a stellar 11-2 overall league record. It was the Tigers first title since 2008.
Unfortunately for the Tigers and their coaching staff, things didn't necassarily go as they planned in the 2012 CL playoffs as they fell in the semis to eventual league champion Southern Lehigh.
Entering this season, Northwestern head coach Nate Hunsicker has mixed feelings about the setback a year ago.
On one hand, the third year head coach feels it may have left a bitter taste in his returning players' mouth and they can use that to their advantage to fuel their fire this season.
On the other hand, Hunsicker stated that every single Tiger in pre-season camp is avoiding the thought of it and left it behind them to solely focus on what's ahead of them.
"It's definitely our goal to win our division again and we're not necessarily dwelling on the past," Hunsicker said. "We are certainly keeping our heads up and looking forward, but we also don't want totally forget about the past. We want to learn from our past mistakes and improve upon where we left off last year. And, the whole team, especially my seniors, are extremely driven this year."
It shouldn't be that much of a problem for the Tigers to move forward towards their desired goal since they only took in two real hits on the field of play.
Hunsicker feels he can rely on a returning group of players that gained valuable experience a year ago to help fill voids left by the graduation of midfielder Boston Furjanic and defender Dan Masetti.
"We do have a lot of younger defenders coming up to fill Dan's position," Hunsicker said. "They aren't the most experienced players, but they are very solid players. Keegan Coeffield will be a sophomore and Dominic Mertz and Jonathan Blaine will be freshmen. I think they are going to turn some heads even though they're fairly young student-athletes for us.
"And, then in the midfield, we have some talented upperclassmen. As of now, it's kind of looking like we'll be going with an outside-midfield by committee kind of deal. We have a lot of different moving parts there. Several kids in fact. So, we're just going to rotate in there until we find the right fit that works."
Returning to the midfield with plenty of minutes played are seniors Kyle Willis, who was tied with forward Brandon Ettl for the team lead goals scored last season (13), and Matt Strickland and junior Brandon Herb. Looking to play a part in the mix are seniors Jay Hereba and Leigham Breckenbridge.
"Our strength this year is going to be right down the middle of the field," Hunsicker said. "They're all solid all-around players. Their foot skills and decision making are great. They are solid at distributing the ball and getting their teammates involved in the game. They're controlling the pace and the tempo of the game day-in and day-out."
Hunsicker has his hands full working with some inexperienced players that span the Tigers' roster, which he believes is an area of concern for this season. Two of those players junior Josh Williamson and freshman Kyle Bellhorn come at a key position goalie. Yet, being a goalkeeper himself in his playing days, Hunsicker has the utmost faith in the newcomers.
"It's kind of a two-horse race," Hunsicker said of the goalkeeper position. "Honestly, it could be a day-by-day, who's playing with the hot-hand type of deal between the two of them."
With everything seeming to be falling into place, it looks as if Hunsicker, his coaching staff and his pack of Tigers are ready to get their claws on some desired hardware.
"We have set team goals to continue to build upon the success that we had last year," Hunsicker said. "We have a lot of new parts on our team this year and we our slowly building up our team chemistry and teamwork. We are looking forward to having a very successful season.
"We want to send some of these guys out with some hardware around their neck."