Having spent numerous seasons in the shadows of crosstown rival Oshkosh West, the Oshkosh North soccer team was looking for something to finally hang their hat on.
They finally found that last season, as the Spartans downed the Wildcats in a WIAA Division 1 regional final in a shootout to advance to sectionals.
While head coach Kevin Baetke may not look at that win as a watershed moment for the program, he definitely expects his squad to build off of last year’s win this season.
“It’s helpful for us to reflect on that, but I don’t want to spend too much time on it,” Baetke said. “We want to take a big step up, continue to get better and get us a couple more wins in the regular season and get ourselves going into the postseason.”
Baetke lost a fair amount of talent from last year’s squad, including all-conference players Zack Knoll and Max Zellmer.
But he does return a fair amount amount back from that squad as well, including one of the top midfielders in the Fox Valley Association this year in Oscar Ceniceros.
Ceniceros was a first-team all-FVA performer last year and will continue to be the fulcrum of the Oshkosh North offense again this season thanks to his exceptional passing ability.
“His vision is great and he knows where the runs are going to be and puts the ball where it needs to be,” Baetke said. “We finally started to get more in touch with him and his vision last year.
“I really look forward with some of the guys returning and knowing how he works to score some goals.”
Some of those players he looks to mesh with Ceniceros to score some of those goals are Aron Kumbalek and Alex McBriar, who are both back from last year’s team.
The defense should be capable as well, headed by Chuefai Thao, who was an honorable mention defender last year, and Sa Lee.
Also back is goalkeeper Hue Xiong, who was the man in the net during North’s shootout win over West last year.
With all of that returning and what appears to be a pretty wide open conference, Baetke expects some similar results to last year’s season.
“Take out the top two teams (in conference) and it should be real wide open,” he said. “I really think if we can play well and get those newcomers going, we could have a really good conference season.
“And with the drop to Division 2 (for postseason), I expect a run as deep or deeper than we were last year.”
The Wildcats lost 15 seniors off of last year’s squad and will be filling plenty of spots with young guys.
Returning for Oshkosh West will be midfielders Alex Engle and Noah Ludwig and forwards Samuel Merrill and Zach Walker. Coach Matt Callahan expects those guys to provide the leadership and scoring for a young Wildcats club.
The rest of the spots are up for grabs for those who are coming in.
“We are going to flexible,” Callahan said. “It’s going to be whoever is the best fit. We had a huge turnover from last year.”
In net will be another youngster in keeper Blake Hartman.
Even with the turnover and newcomers, Callahan still has high expectations for his team in what could be an open conference season this year.
New coach Peter LaCourse takes over a Lourdes team that went 8-11-1 last year and has plenty returning this year.
Back from last year’s squad is Lourdes’s lone all-Flyway Conference selection in Corey Beecher. Also back are Adam Trofka, Brady Schneider, Josh Hedge, Alex Stadler and Jacob Putzer.
Jesee Boehm will take over in goal for the Knights.
LaCourse hopes to pressure teams and putting a lot of shots on net. With the number of returners, he hopes that that system can be very successful for the Knights this season.
The Wolves lost 10 players to graduations, including four all-conference players, from last year’s club that went 14-8.
Also hurting the Wolves is that returning leading scorer Charlie LaDue is out with injury. Winneconne hopes to have him back by the end of the season.
Other Wolves to watch for are Andy Lee, Andrew Zolp, Oliver Wallschlaeger, Adam Sitter and Jack Litjens.
Coach Luis Sayavedra hopes that his young club can put things together and match last year’s record.
The Foxes will be a young team after graduating nine seniors from a squad that went 6-8-2 last season.
Returning for coach Nic Douglas will be all-Flyway honorable mention defender Alex O’Connell. He will be heading up a defense with sophomore Isaiah Kilgas, who played well as a freshman last season.
Douglas expects plenty of freshman players to find the field this season for the Foxes.
Omro will be looking to get these players up to speed, filling the spots left by the seniors and getting them plenty of experience this season.
The Indians finished 5-17 last year, but return all but one starter from the squad and look to be improved this season.
Berlin will be anchored by its five seniors, including the leading scorer from last year Rafael Pizano and the team’s talented stopper, Alec Huggins. Forwards Alex Vang and Cayden McGregor and defender Collin Rogers are also returning starters for the Indians, who scored just 24 goals last season — the lowest total in the program’s 12-year history.
The one starting spot the Indians must replace from last year will be at goalkeeper, where head coach Don Demick was auditioning a wide array of players to fill the role. Berlin did not have a junior varsity team last season, so there was no goalkeeper ready to step in.
“This year, even moving everybody up we will be kind of young again. We’re going to be OK especially compared to last year. But we’re still young,” Demick said. “A lot of the kids do have a year or more of experience, so we are looking to be better.”
The Tigers will be looking to replace some graduated talent from a team that finished around .500 last year.
Ripon does have last season’s leading scorer in senior Elias Nelsen back and return other starters Alex Wheaton, Ben Pulvermacher and Sam Vander Plas to this year’s club.
First-year coach Kyle Sackett hopes some of his juniors and sophomores can step up and play big, such as Brandon Erickson, Riley Haas and Reed Shohoney.