This Tuesday, the Bradwell Institute soccer teams will scrimmage at Wayne County High School to kick off the Tigers’ soccer season.
Lady Tiger soccer coach Scott Akin said he has 14 returning players from last year and many more prepared for the season.
“We are way ahead of last year,” he said, adding they didn’t get competitive last year until midseason. “And from that halfway point on, I thought we played pretty well and pretty competitively all the way through. … I think we are already at that point to start the season.”
Akin said the girls started conditioning in November but have been officially practicing for only about a week.
He said as long as they can remain injury-free, they should have plenty of depth. Goal keeper Raina Richardson still is playing basketball, but the coach anticipates her return once hoops season ends. He said Christiania Eskridge has played keeper before and will be in the rotation, as will Mae Kayla Linville.
“I believe in these kids,” he said. “They fight hard and they play hard and, hopefully, we can keep (the opponents) out of the nets. I think we can play great defense and make the most of every offensive opportunity. I anticipate we are going to be competitive from the start and fight for a playoff spot this year.”
Tiger coach Tom Oglesby is entering his sixth season as the boys coach and said this year he has several assistant coaches to help him with the junior-varsity and varsity teams. Former Liberty County High School soccer player Cody Folker will assist the team, as will Lindsey and Graham Martin and Joey Mecina.
Oglesby said that last season, he was playing sophomores on his attacking third of the field, and he lost all his defenders from last season to graduation.
“But I have some really good juniors coming up to play defense this year,” he said.
Shaun DeLaTorre is his returning goal keeper.
“He did a phenomenal job last year. He stepped up a lot over the summer working on his goal keeping skills,” Oglesby said.
And the coach said he expects a lot from his defenders.
“We are looking for Robert Burton to step up and control the center back, him and Ryon Wells,” he said. “We are also looking at DeLaTorre to continue to guide things in the back and make sure marks are picked up … and I have two guys in the middle, Darrius Smith and Justice Hoffman, who have grown as center midfielder. We are looking to them to control the game and make at least 30 accurate passes per match so we can be successful.”
Oglesby said everyone will get a chance to play in the scrimmage.
“So I can see who can play in a game situation and how these younger guys can adjust to a varsity-style game,” he said. “We are looking at keeping our shape and staying in position.”
The coach said Richmond Hill is on his radar when it comes to region games.
“They are always a strong team, but we’ve been focused on trying to find a way to get that win,” he said. “We see Effingham again and they beat us last year in PKs so that is just a high-rivalry game.”
But the big game takes place Feb. 19, when the first of two games this year against Liberty will be played at Donell Woods Stadium.
“As a BI alumni myself, that was probably one of my most enjoyable games — playing the crosstown rivals. But they have a new coach this year, so I am sure that she is going to bring a new spunk to their team. We are excited to play them. It’s the game that all the kids want to play, and it’s always fun to watch,” he said.
The regular season starts Feb. 10 with the Tigers hosting Brunswick at Olvey Field. The girls play first at 5 p.m. and the boys play afterwards.