Lions still looking to shed two difficult seasons with two different coaches, coaching styles
Stepping back into the coaching profession after a 14-year hiatus, Bob Opperman has a big challenge ahead of him: turn around a struggling St. Helens boys soccer program that hasnt amounted to much over the last two seasons.
Opperman, who was originally enlisted to find a new coach before being offered the position, got a late start on tryouts and a later start on practices. He has had only a handful of training sessions ahead of the first game with Barlow. Regardless, Opperman is positive about the upcoming year, and while he declined to set a win total for a successful season, he wants it for the boys as much as anything.
I think its going to come out of our seniors leading the others and bringing them along with them and a desire to get some wins. That wasnt something the last two years have brought them, and they said they played well last year, especially defensively, but they want to see those Ws coming in there, he said. They have the desire, and the juniors last year have turned into seniors, so theyre the leaders of the team and they want that more. I think thats probably where that will come from.
The group is a good mix of upper and lowerclassmen, spearheaded by a core of experienced seniors. Ivan Alcazar will anchor the back line ahead of a pair of rotating goalkeepers.
Hes a smart player, and hes running that defense back there for me, Opperman said. He talks and he knows where his teammates are going and keeps them in their spots.
Opperman plans to play from the back and possess the ball up the wings, hoping to space out the defense and open up opportunities to make plays in space. The team has taken to the new philosophy so far, and Opperman is optimistic about their ability to score.
The game of soccer is a possession game. Youve got to have the ball. You dont have the ball, you dont score, Opperman said. I think thats what were going to do is try to keep the field wide, make them work harder than were working, and then bring it in to – it doesnt matter whos up there, our midfielders or our strikers – well try to get it in to them.
Weve worked on that a lot, using the whole field, he said. I told them, with any luck and anything going on, they will have to come out to get you. It should open up some offense for us up front.
The weight of the season rests on the senior class, who have formed a tight-knit group over the last several seasons. Opperman said he doesnt know when the first victory will come, but it will feel awfully good and serve as an excellent motivator.
Individually, Opperman said he can see talent in the players he has to work with, but the challenge will be in putting everything together into a successful format.
All the players have got great skill, and theyre strong players, he said. Well design our game around that. Thats how were going to do it, well design our team and our game around that.
The first match is a steep challenge, taking on 6A power Barlow to kick off the season. The ever-positive Opperman didnt pull many punches when it came to the difficulty theyd face right off the bat, saying that he fully expected to hang in for three quarters but fade as the game wound on and Barlows experience and depth did their work for them.
Regardless, its not the wins and losses that matter. Opperman simply wants to see each athlete grow as a soccer player and as a person in his program, a person who wants to return the next season to continue playing. An influx of youth is a good sign, according to Opperman, who plans to stay as long as St. Helens needs him to fill the position.
Theres a lot of standouts, and until we get against some actual competition, we wont know how its going to work for us on the field, he said. There may be some adjustments to make on the field as far as position, but other than that, I think that weve got some good freshmen coming in that are going to play some varsity this year.
The Lions will kick off the league schedule on Sept. 30 with a home game against Parkrose.