PARKERSBURG - Last year, Parkersburg South's boys soccer team reached the regional semifinals.
This season, with a slew of returnees and a varsity squad numbering 19 sporting valuable experience, Patriot head coach Ed Ayers is thinking state tournament in his fourth season at the boys soccer helm.
South opens its season at 11 a.m. Saturday at Linsly, then has its first home match at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29 at Erickson against University.
Last year, "we had some ups and downs," said Ayers. "A lot of games, we got beat by one (goal), so that makes it tough. Overall though, we had a good year," but bowed out at Wheeling Park 4-3 in regional play ''when they scored right at the end. It was an exciting game; the boys played great up there."
So coming into this season, said Ayers, "we knew what we had to play with, since we actually lost only three seniors from last year at starting positions.
"And having to only fill in three positions made it a little easier this year."
South Boys Soccer
Schedule and Roster
* Freshmen: Josh Lynn
* Sophomores: Dylan Hall, Zac Habeb
* Juniors: Jay Davila, Lincoln Morgan, Vincent Scalise, Brad Emerick Mica Boles, Weston Ayers, Brad Morrison, Alex Hering, Tristan Adams, Stefan Affolter, Caleb Cheadle, Evin Flinn, Mason Hupp, Christian Kidwell, Jacob Leibau, Zac Lynn, Austin Ross
* Seniors: Brett Mattson, Caleb McHenry, Franklin Miller, Wyatt Parsons, Andrew Steeles, Andrew Suggs, Dillon Dowler, Russell Bunner, Gabe Ingram, Grant Tebay, Peter Puschautz
* Head coach: Ed Ayers, 4th year
* Aug. 24: at Linsly, 11 a.m; Aug. 29: University, 7:30 p.m; Aug. 31: PHS, 7:30 p.m.
* Sept. 3: at Wheeling Park, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 5: Morgantown, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 7: at Brooke, 11 a.m.; Sept. 10: Tyler Consolidated, 5:30 p.m.; Sept. 12: at Cambridge, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 14: at John Marshall, 10 a.m.; Sept. 17: Huntington St. Joe, 7:30 p.m.; Sept. 19: at Marietta, 7 p.m.; Sept. 21: at Weir, 1 p.m.; Sept. 23-28: OVAC tournament; Sept. 28: Bridgeport, 11 a.m.
* Oct. 1: Point Pleasant, 5:30 p.m.; Oct. 3: at PHS, 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 5: Winfield, noon; Oct. 12: at Warren, 6 p.m.; Oct. 15: Ripley (Senior Night), 7:30 p.m; Oct. 17: at Capital, 7:30 p.m.
But what Ayers "tried to do this year was instead of guys playing just one position, they multi-task where I can move them around from a defender or an offensive player or whatever.
"So I've been working with that, and have a lot of boys now playing multiple positions this year, which we haven't done too much of in the past. That makes it easier to sub in and out too."
In addition, Ayers noted that a lot of his returnees "played travel ball or spring ball, which means they kept their foot on the ball all year long, which makes a big difference."
Ayers has two players right now contending for the starting goaltending spot, "and it's pretty equal," he said, between sophomore Adam Colteryahn and last year's keeper, junior Lincoln Morgan.
But Ayers now has a luxury with both of them also "able to play the field - Lincoln at defensive midfielder and Adam at a wing" - if they're not in goal.
Back as well is senior and team captain again in Dillon Dowler, "a phenomenal player, who will probably be either at center mid or the defensive mid area," said Ayers.
Senior Brett Mattson, "who has really developed this year," said Ayers, will be a forward striker up on top.
Another senior, Wyatt Parsons, said Ayers, "I can play basically anywhere. He was one of the best on the team at finishing strong last year, and has carried that over to this year."
Ditto for senior Andrew Suggs on playing anywhere, added Ayers, although he will probably start at defensive mid.
And on the back line of the defense for his third year starting will be junior D-back Brad Emerick. "He's tough at a demanding position, but always plays great," said Ayers.
Plus, Ayers has had "some new guys step up from the team last year " in Mica Boles, his son Weston Ayers and Brad Morrison, all juniors.
What would Ayers consider a successful season? "I want to go to the state tournament," he stated. "That's the ultimate goal.
"But just like I told them, the first 20 games we have are scrimmage games - for us to build on, and guys to get experience and learn.
"But other than they're your seeding in your sectional and regional, that's it.
"I never want to lose any game and neither do these boys. If we lose 1-0 in some of those 'scrimmages,' but play well and learn something from it, that's successful.''
With 32 on this year's varsity/JV roster, "this is probably my biggest returning bunch," said Ayers.
"Last year was good, but we've been looking for this year for a while."