Third-year McDonell/Eau Claire Regis boys soccer coach Joe Cash understands the challenges awaiting his team this fall.
The Saints will field a young roster this year that is also down on overall numbers with just 15 players in the program. But even though the Saints will be playing with fewer on the roster than most, Cash said those who has work well together.
“We’re young obviously. We don’t really have a lot of depth but what I really like about this team is they have a lot of chemistry,” Cash said. “Compared to the first two seasons I’ve had, they probably have some of the better chemistry I’ve had so far.”
McDonell/Regis is two seasons removed from a trip to the Division 4 state tournament. Few players from that team remain and while the lineup this fall with have significant youth in it, Cash has four seniors he’s able to lean on with Mason Swoboda, Trent Witkowski, Evan Flak and Zade Kidess.
“Those four they’re very heady as far as their maturity, the way they handle each other (and) their tact,” Cash said. “That’s one of the things we’ve talked about as well. We can’t really afford to have that whole pecking order and rite of passage with the freshmen we have in the past.
“We’re one big team, it’s got to all come together or it’s not going to come together.”
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The lack of numbers not only inhibits the team’s depth for games, it also limits what the team can do in practices. Standard scrimmages cannot happen due to the team’s low amount of players, so the coaching stuff must get creative in its practice techniques. With a younger roster significant skill development is expected, so the coach wants his team to focus more on what they can do to improve those abilities and less on what the scoreboard might say.
“We talk about this all the time, being driven by the process and not the results,” Cash said. “Not being results orientated, being driven by the things you need to do in this present moment.”
McDonell/Regis plays an independent schedule with no conference affiliation, so lengthy travel for games is common. McDonell/Regis opened the season with a 1-0 victory at Spooner on Aug. 29 before falling 3-0 last Tuesday in Barron. The Saints played at Wautoma on Saturday before home games on Tuesday against Northland Pines and Friday hosting Baldwin-Woodville. The Saints play their final home game of the regular season at Casper Park on Oct. 7 against Amery before concluding the season with five consecutive road games before the playoffs.
The McDonell/Regis program is in a much different place than it was two years ago when it made a run to the Division 4 state tournament. But Cash has been pleased with the mindset of his team thus far as well as the team’s expectations and goals.
“The majority of this group said to come together as a team,” Cash said of his squad’s preseason goals. “As a coach that’s music to my ears and it’s very impressive. To be as young as they are and they realize that, that can take us places.”