Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Sports

August 18, 2013

Howard Co. boys soccer preview

MIC co-champions Western, NW lead way to new season

There’s plenty of promise around Howard County as big groups return to co-Mid-Indiana Conference boys soccer champions Northwestern and Western, the county pace-setters. Those squads expect to post strong seasons again this year thanks to light graduation losses and plenty of talent.

Elsewhere in the county, Eastern and Taylor took huge strides last season but follow up with young squads, and Kokomo hopes a major influx of talent produces a rebound season.

Below are capsules on the five county squads, in order of record last season.

NORTHWESTERN

The Class A Tipton Sectional champion Purple Tigers expect to go from strength to strength after returning 23 players from a 15-3 squad that also shared MIC honors with Western. Northwestern lost five senior starters, but returns much more.

“It’s helpful because we don’t have to start at such a basic level,” NW coach Jim Wagner said of the team’s experience. “We’ve been focusing mainly the last two weeks on improving their creativity on the offensive end. We’ll have a couple seniors leading the defense that have been doing a good job getting the younger guys up to speed and filling the gaps that we had in the back.”

Three of the five graduation losses were in the defensive unit, including the goalie, leaving a lot of returning players in midfield and attack.

“I think we’ll be good at scoring,” Wagner said. “The question mark is on the defensive end, how strong our defense is going to be? We had a really strong defense last year, a lot of shutouts, a lot of one-goal games. If we can do that again this year, we’re really going to be in good shape.”

The current senior class features flashpaper forward Robert Olsen, who led the team in goals (17) and assists (10) last year. He can also move back to midfield. His classmates include midfielder/defender Haden Hall, center back Benny Hernandez, midfielder Garrett Hite, and Graham Ortmann, who is contesting for the goalie spot and will play defense if not in goal.

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