Not the biggest or the most experienced, the Menomonie boys soccer team is looking to play with intelligence this season.
Fourth-year coach Meagan Frank sees a group that has the ability to mesh well and have a productive year but younger players will need to develop to fill the holes left from a quality group of departed seniors.
“There’s a lot of good intelligence, soccer intelligence with this group and a lot potential,” Frank said. “We are young and not as big as some of our opponents but they are smart and very passionate.”
The Mustangs are off to a 2-2-1 start overall and 1-1 in the Big Rivers Conference heading into Tuesday evening’s matchup with Hudson. Menomonie dropped a 5-1 contest to River Falls on Sept. 3 before collecting a 1-0 victory over Eau Claire North last Thursday.
Menomonie finished sixth in the conference last season and if the Mustangs want to continue to move up in the standings and be more competitive against the top teams in the conference Franks said they need outwit and strategize quickly during games in order to make up for a lack of experience.
“I think the way that they think about the game and they work with each other that is going to be their strength because we’re not as old as some of our opponents,” Frank said, “and because of that we’re going to have to be quick thinking, witty and creative.”
Menomonie lost second team all-conference members James Schemenauer and Adam Wilson along with all-conference honorable mention Ilari Lahtinen from last year’s team. The Mustangs must also replace departed seniors Alex Brost and Liam Schwartz.
Seniors Forrest Strong and Tyler Buhr return on defense and midfield to provide leadership. Junior captains Shane Drazkowski and Jonathan Fenton will anchor the defense. Fenton returns in the net and Drazkowski makes a moves to defender to strengthen that position.
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Franks said Menomonie has focused on its defense this season by placing its leaders and most experienced players on that side of the field.
“Building from the back that is where we put our strongest, loudest kids,” Frank said.
Alejandro Noyola was the team’s second leading scorer last year and the sophomore will be counted on to provide an offensive punch this year. Senior Isaac Lin has provided a spark on offense so far this year leading the team with three goals. Sophomore Gabe Tonnier has found the back of the net twice through five games.
Menomonie is also leaning on a group of freshman to provide valuable varsity minutes this year. Freshman Clayton Fanetti, Minkus Vang, Alessio Komro and Xander Reidmann each have the opportunity to make an impact in their first season on the team. Fanetti scored both of the team’s goals in a 2-2 tie with Osceola on Saturday.
Frank hopes the young talent can continue to make improvements once they acclimated to the varsity level.
“They’re trying to find there space still I think throughout the season it will continue to evolve,” Franks said of the freshman. “There’s a lot of nerves that need to kind of settle down and some things that they just need to get up to the speed of play. This is a lot faster game than they are used to and so once they figure that part out they’ll calm down a little bit.”
Menomonie continues play on Saturday at a quad in River Falls that also features La Crosse Central and Sparta. The following week the Mustangs return to Big Rivers play by hosting Rice Lake on Tuesday and then traveling to Eau Claire Memorial on Thursday.