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Boys soccer: Irish hope to finish .500, play best soccer in 2nd half

Last year's team didn't pick up a lot of wins, but improved over the course of the season before losing 2-0 to Park in the section tournament. Based on what you've seen the first week of practice, do you think this year's team can pick up where last year left off?

We were pretty young last year so I am looking for some better performances this year from the players. We seem to be deeper than we were last year so I am hoping to pick up where we left off. We always seem to need time to play together (a few weeks) and then in the second half of the season we start to improve. I just hope we can keep injuries to a minimum this year.

You lose nine seniors, including your team MVP in midfielder Sam Temple and offensive MVP Dalton Cunningham. Coming off a season where the offense struggled, scoring just 11 goals in 17 games, what is the team doing to improve offensively? Who are some players you expect to lead the scoring charge?

We will have some players up front that want to score and have the skill to put the ball in the back of the net. We definitely want to improve on the offensive end of things. I am looking for Blake Fitzel, Esti Fairchild and Schyler Storer to lead the charge.

You return a a few players who saw time on the defensive end. Who will be your defensive leaders?

Defensively we will have to see what happens. I am looking for Mike Koziol to lead the defense and we may be working with different players on the outsides. Defensively we will need some work but I think we have the right players.

You will once again face a tough South Suburban Conference schedule. How do you keep the players positive when even a great effort could result in a loss?

This is the tough part. I always remind them that we are a second half of the season team and once playoffs start, it is anyone's game. They believe that and work hard towards that. Even last year we came into the playoffs ready and believing. There has to be some intrinsic motivation too, I remind them. They have to want it deep inside and believe -- if not, they become a weak link of the "team" philosophy which isn't fair to their teammates.

What are your goals for the season?

My goals are to improve on scoring goals. I would like to see us about .500 for the season and then go into playoffs with our best team. I also want the boys to walk away from this season having learned something, improved as players, and having good memories to take with them -- especially the seniors.