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Friday, May 6, 2016

Knights trying to bridge experience gap

Friday, August 10, 2007

Nick Hensler (left) defends James Bryan during Thursday's soccer practice at Northview High School.
The 2007 boys' soccer season holds a certain degree of uncertainty for the Northview Knights. Afterall, they have to replace 10 starters from last year's team that went 9-9 overall and advanced to the sectional championship game. Perhaps even more important is that they must replace head coach Todd LaComba who spent six years at the helm of the program.

To their benefit however, they will have an experienced head coach to take over as Don Bryan takes over after a brief hiatus from the sidelines. He previously coached the girls team several years ago and also held the top spot for the boys' team, most recently back in 1997 where he compiled a 16-24-1 overall mark.

Experience will be the hardest facet to replace for the Knights however.

Gone from last year are five players who played more than 900 minutes last season, including starting goalkeeper Taylor Montague who started 17 games and had a 1.32 goals against average.

Shaun Hardey, Nate Navel and Jordan Pond all concluded their careers among the top-10 in career minutes played for the Knights. The group was also part of a squad that experienced a victory more than 20 times in their careers.

The cupboard is far from bare for Northview however.

"We'll take what we get," said Bryan following practice on Thursday. "We've got a good nucleus of seniors and a nice group of underclassmen. It's just a matter of finding chemistry."

Returning are Northview's top two goal scorers in senior John Latta (12 goals, four assists) and Brandon Hathaway (six goals, four assists). Senior Michael Gallion added two assists last year and Ken Wright also had an assist in 2006.

According to Bryan, the Knights should have plenty of scoring options this year.

"As long as we distribute the ball, we've got quite a few options. We'll need to keep moving and cutting."

Other experienced returnees will be senior Zach Childs, who scored a goal and added two assists while starting 11 games. Nick Hensler got five starts while seeing action in 17 games and Logan Lynch provides stability on defense after starting 15 of 18 games. Jordan Lynch will also move up to the varsity level regularly after playing in 11 games.

"We're going to be moving some people around, especially on defense, to try and find the right combination. We'll be stressing midfield pressure."

Finding a replacement for Montague in net will also be an important order of business.

Montague had 12 shutouts in his career and started 41 games in net while saving over 87 percent of shots against him.

Battling for the starting spot will be junior Cainan Reeves who started one game last year, and sophomore Robert Joslyn.

"We've got to get them some time whether its junior varsity or varsity or both," commented Bryan. "We'll see who stands out as they get some playing time."

Of benefit to Northview is that many of the team's younger players got significant playing time at the junior varsity level.

"That's a big plus," said Bryan of the JV time last year. "We'll work on more strategy with them and how they can improve their game's. I think everyone is going to get plenty of playing time at one level or another."

With plenty of youth on the team, that playing time will be of great benefit to a team that has had plenty of upheaval after LaComba left the program. Their replacement coach also moved on after finding a teaching job that was better suited to him as well. So Bryan has stepped in admirably and, despite playing catch up, has gotten his team prepared to the best of his ability.

"After they lost Todd and their interim coach, we're getting a kind of late start. But these kids worked hard most of the summer. It'll be a little while before we're at full strength, but I think we can pick up a couple of more kids once school starts too."

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