Wednesday marked the first day of fall practice for public school teams in the state, starting anew for many the quest to win the season’s last game.
At La Plata, the Warriors’ boys soccer team is one of many with big ambitions in the season to come.
The team enjoyed a relatively successful season in 2018, going perfect within Southern Maryland Athletic Conference Potomac Division play before coming up just short in a 2-1 decision against Leonardtown in the Southern Maryland Athletic Conference championship game. With a healthy group of seniors, Wednesday morning’s practice marked the start of what the Warriors are hoping will be a season that brings a little more success.
“It feels good. A lot of us have been playing together since we were real young, so this is our last opportunity. It’s something to look forward to,” senior JD Santiago said. “We have high expectations for each other. There is a lot of young talent that will balance our experience. We’re looking forward to it.”
“I’m hopeful,” added senior Cole Trani. “A lot of us seniors grew up playing soccer together. This is our last season, so we’re trying to come out strong, go a lot further than we have in past years, win states, hopefully.”
The La Plata program last played in a state final in 2015, while it reached the state semifinals in 2016. For a group of seniors who largely grew up playing together and with Warriors head coach Chris Butler, the goal is to extend this season to that point again.
“I think this is probably our best season in terms of players,” Trani said. “It’s our coach’s last season. We’ve grown up with him coaching us, so we have a special kind of chemistry. We all work really well together, and we all have the skill to make it all the way.”
“Obviously I think everyone’s goal is states,” Santiago said. “We would like to be able to get to the SMAC championship again and hopefully win it this year. We’ve been there three of my four years and we came close. Just hoping it’s finally good enough.”
On the other end of the spectrum, over the past couple of seasons Lackey’s girls soccer program has been working to build the program to a competitive place.
Having struggled for many years to just earn a win or two, last year the Chargers put together an 8-6 season, going 4-2 within SMAC Potomac Division play. That, coupled with another infusion of talent from this year’s incoming freshmen, have created the basis from some optimism as practice opened on Wednesday evening.
“We look like we have good talent coming in with the freshmen group,” Lackey head coach Dione Conley said. “I just feel blessed to have this squad. Starting out the years I’ve been here have been a struggle, but we’ve really done well with what we’ve got in the freshmen classes and the quality of players that are coming in. ... We’ve done a few camps this season, getting a lot of the players ready. I’m very excited about this season. We’ve improved our record each season since I’ve been here.”
The first night of work did nothing to dampen any spirits.
“Everybody’s new. We’re all getting along together. It’s been good,” sophomore Brooke Portzen said. “We’re trying to improve to build up our varsity and JV so everyone gets playing time. ... [Practice] was good. We did a lot of running.”
“I’m really excited,” added junior Taylor Bohannon. “A lot of these people are great friends and this team has come together really well. We’ve all worked hard. Today was hard. We all tried our best and improved.”
Bohannon’s expectations for the season aren’t necessarily tied to a set number of wins or championships. It’s more about everyone putting in the effort and enjoying the process of trying to improve.
“Everyone improves and we’re all having fun,” she said of what she thinks will make the season successful. “If you’re not having fun, there’s really no point in doing this. Fun is basically the key. I really hope everyone is having fun, we all try our hardest to improve and we do better than last year.”