A year ago with four seniors and 11 juniors on the team, Coach Aaron Koester was looking at a turn-around year, a run at a conference title, with an eye at returning to state.
“My seniors were guys who had played for me since eighth grade,” Coach Koester said. “Unfortunately, COVID-19 killed our season.”
Ian Greiner, the team’s leading scorer, Trevor Cloyed, another top scorer, Adam Waber a talented mid-fielder and Jose Nutting, a defender, didn’t get to play their final year.
But those 11 juniors are now seniors and they have a lot of unfinished business to attend to.
“Having 11 seniors this year is huge,” said Koester.
They are led by four-year starter and four-year captain Landon Noe, a multi-talented player, who starred two years ago in his sophomore season as a midfielder, but will play more this year as an offensive right wing. “We have so much talent back in the midfield, we think Landon is best for us scoring,” said Coach Koester. He will be joined by sophomore, Adam Sheffield, sweeper and freshman Lance Helm, left wing. Senior Matteo Bender is another solid sweeper.
Midfield is the team’s deepest position and Coach Koester sees a rotation of players there. Seniors Travis Sheffield, David Fisher, Ben Leshen and freshmen Connor Fisher and Cason Noe will all find time in the rotation. Sophomore Sophie Waber, who has lots of experience with Pella AAU clubs, will also see significant minutes in the midfield.
Defense might be the team’s strong suit with a number of veteran players, including seniors Austin Stanley and Gage Shaffer, along with senior Brock Ratliff and juniors Dawson Bonnett and Eli Zanoni in the mix. Several of the team’s top midfielders can also play in the back.
This is the first year in Koester’s four years of coaching that he will have depth at goalie with three-year starter Zach Lawrence and freshman Connor Fisher in the box.
Technically, the program would have celebrated its 20th year of competition last year, but this year will be the 20th season of actual competition. It could be a good one. “I think we’ll be very competitive in the conference,” said Coach Koester. “Clarke and Knoxville will field good teams, but I think Chariton and Centerville will be very young,” he added.
The team jumps into competition against Pella Christian at home on April 5. They will play in the Solon Tournament against Ottumwa, Fairfield and Solon before getting into conference play. There are 16 matches on the schedule.
Coach Koester is also welcoming former Albia defensive star, Matt Johnson, on his coaching staff. “We have a talented group of underclassmen,” said Coach Koester. “This is my largest team with 26 players. We’re extremely excited to get the season underway.”