Spring Hill College Men's Soccer Head Coach Tim Brooks returns for his second year to find a roster dominated by freshmen and sophomores. Of 28 players, the Badgers feature only seven seniors with 15 freshmen and six sophomores. Brooks, however, does not look at those numbers as a problem. "I like it," he says. "When you think of a young team, you think of growth and opportunity. They're open to new ideas and understand that this is the time is when we start building the foundation of the program. We're going to be young for the next few years."
The Badger offensive unit in 2011 is a prime example of exactly what faces Brooks this year. Senior Josh Ledet of Fairhope, Ala., moves to the offensive side of the field where he will be joined by freshman Tyler Hartlage from Tampa, Fla. "We definitely want to find players who can keep the ball moving when we are on offense," Brooks says. "But we have the advantage of depth on our bench this year and that is something we lacked last season. Players face competition off the bench and that pressure makes us better every day."
Brooks spent the off season recruiting student-athletes who are dangerous on offense. "That was our main focus this year," he says. "We have to find a rotation in our attack and that was our goal while looking for young players. We will probably start matches this year with seven or eight underclassmen and as many as six freshmen."
The Spring Hill defense will see two seniors starting next to a sophomore as upperclassmen Phoenix Iverson of Decatur, Ala., and Bryce Privett of Fairhope welcome Nick Link of Elizabethtown, Ky., to the line up. "Phoenix and Nick will be at center back with Bryce at left back," Brooks says. "The right side is still open as we begin play, but that's only because of the high level of competition at that spot this year."
Goalkeeper is a position that Brooks feels comfortable. Fifth-year senior Cory Bronenkamp of St. Louis, Mo., returns after an excellent season in goal last year. "Cory is about as experienced as any college keeper can be, but he also has freshman Gabriel Jaramillo of Miami, Fla., right on his heels. Gabriel is very talented and just needs to get some experience." The surprise of the preseason was freshman Patrick Danner from Tampa who has impressed Brooks with his skill and hard work. "Realistically, we're very deep at goalkeeper and the situation has worked out just right with Cory's experience being able to teach our two younger keepers."
The young Badgers face a difficult challenge in the 2011 schedule, but Brooks sees the schedule as an advantage. "We scheduled a tough non-conference slate to get ready for the conference run," he says. "With the Southern States Athletic Conference (SSAC) moving to a 12-game schedule instead of last year's 5-game schedule, it means we have to be ready to play a lot earlier this year."
Brooks also knows that the SSAC is one of the toughest soccer conferences in the NAIA. "By the end of this year, the eight teams that qualify for the conference playoffs could be ranked in the NAIA's Top 25. That means that we have to take this season one game at a time and understand that deciding who makes the conference postseason will go down to the last weekend. We are an interesting young team that will have to develop early and get good quickly."
The Spring Hill College men open the 2011 slate at home on Saturday versus Texas College at 1 p.m. on Library Field.