Last year's humbling first-round defeat of Chugiak's boys soccer team by West in the opening round of the Cook Inlet Conference tournament could prove to be a mere stepping stone if the Mustangs have their way.
"They've had all summer to stew on that," said head coach George Campnell.
That 4-0 loss - on their home turf, to boot - is what Campnell says has his team focused and ready in advance of the season opener on March 23.
"The mental attitude is stronger, and I think that's going to translate into their play," he said.
Just about everyone returns from a team that finished fourth during the regular season last year, and Campnell revealed they've added some depth in the form of a tongue-twisting exchange student.
He's Szilard Bott (the z is silent), a junior from Slovakia who the head coach said will add a polished skill set as an attacking midfielder.
"He can read the game very well," Campnell said.
Campnell said he expects Bott's presence to add to an already deep midfield group led by last year's team MVP, Mo Ogden.
"He's been one of our core players, work-ethic wise," he said.
Ogden will be joined again this season in midfield by Keaton Rasic. Both are seniors, as are many of Chugiak's likely core, which also includes defenders Brad Cruickshanks and Nathan Macalino and striker Brad Fussner.
Bott isn't the only new face likely to see plenty of minutes. After not playing for his first three years at Chugiak for personal reasons, senior Sebastian Ruesch has signed on to compliment Fussner at the front.
"We really expect to see some goals out of him," Campnell said.
Though he's new to the Chugiak side, Campnell said Ruesch is certainly no stranger to the game, and has a true knack for finding the net.
"He's that pure striker that we've really wanted," he said.
Nearly 50 players tried out for this year's team, the largest turnout Campnell said he can remember since the Chugiak-Eagle River split in 2006. And with talent as well as numbers, this year's squad could be a contender, he said.
"This is by far the best" team he's had in five seasons as head coach, Campnell said.
But he also knows talent doesn't always translate into tournament victories.
"I think they've underachieved the last few years," he said.
Campnell also needs to find a goalie to replace last year's starter, Rusty Teller. He said the team is still undergoing the process of trying out keepers for the job.
"No comment," he joked when asked about how the hunt for a keeper is going.
Chugiak assistant Matt Miller said he hopes that last year's disappointing finish to a strong season could be the key to ending that trend toward underachievement.
"I think getting snuffed out early helped wake them up," Miller said.
The Mustangs will have an early chance to find out if they're truly ready to challenge for CIC heavyweight status when they battle Dimond at 4:40 p.m. March 23 at The Dome in Anchorage. The Lynx are one of Alaska's premier programs, and are themselves on a mission after losing in last year's state title game to Juneau.
Contact Matt Tunseth at firstname.lastname@example.org or 694-2727 ext. 215
This article published in The Alaska Star on Thursday, March 17, 2011.