MARIETTA-Todd Morris has been associated with the Marietta High boys soccer program in one capacity or another as a player or coach for 23 years.
During that storied history, the seventh-year Tiger boss would be hard-pressed to recall a time when the Tiger booters were in a rebuilding phase to start a season.
Usually, MHS is either reloading or fine-tuning for another successful fall campaign.
Marietta took a big graduation hit after last season's 14-3-3 overall mark, but....
"We did graduate a very talented class - including four players who are playing at the collegiate level, and that is not including our (Division II) All-Ohio player (second team) in Jacob Holdren," Morris said. "Some big shoes to fill, but as always, we expect guys to step up and fill the roles for us to be very competitive and compete."
Holdren, a center-mid playmaker, was also first team East Central Ohio League (ECOL) and first team all-district with a team-high 16 assists and a runner-up team 12 goals.
2014 Marietta Boys Soccer
Head coach: Todd Morris, 7th year
Last year's record: 14-4-4
Assistants: Andy Porter, Justin Arthur, Colten Holdren
Aug. 16:at Warren
Aug. 26:at Dover
Sept. 6:at Philo
Sept. 9:at Coshocton
Sept. 11:at Parkersburg South
Sept. 13:at Athens
Sept. 16:New Philadelphia
Sept. 18:John Glenn
Sept. 23:at Bishop Rosecrans
Sept. 27:River View
Sept. 30:at Zanesville
Max Suckel, the Tigers' leading scorer with 23 goals, has returned to his native land of Chile.
As for last fall's seniors, captains' Brent Huck (midfielder) and Eric Pierce (goalkeeper) will be competing at Marietta College this upcoming school semester, while defenders' Tanner Rake and captain Brent Uhrig will be playing at Davis & Elkins and Capital University, respectively. The other players who received their diplomas in the spring were Skylar Miracle, Clay Mason, and Ian Hazelton.
Some soccer coaches might be hitting the panic button with that much talent gone, but not Morris.
Of the returnees, who had significant playing time on the varsity pitch last fall, there are five seniors, three juniors, and one sophomore.
As a three-year defensive starter, Andrew Roberts has the most experience. Then, there are Ryan Teer (8 goals, 3 assists), Zach Robinson, Jared Feathers, and Zach LaBarre.
Owen LaBarre, Christian Kendall, and Justin Hammons are the juniors, while sophomore Ben Dehmlow scored six goals and assisted on three others as a frosh booter last season.
Replacing Pierce between the pipes will be challenging, but there are three candidates in camp, and one figures to get the job. Michael Ullman is a senior, and he will be pushed by sophomores' Jarod Knight and Tyler DeVol.
All three will be guided by Morris and assistant Colten Holdren, both former Marietta Tiger goalkeepers.
"We will work out with them all summer and see who wins the job," Morris said. "We will give them all the opportunity and we will see how the chips fall."
Since May, the MHS boys "have been participating in open fields," Morris said. They've also started conditioning sessions.
Next week, the Tiger booters will be attending a team camp at Marietta College with Pioneer men's coach Joe Bergin. Later this month, on July 26-27, the orange and black squad will head for Albany for the Alexander Shootout.
Practice in earnest is scheduled to kick off Aug. 1, and the season begins on the road at Warren Aug. 16.
"Overall, we feel we will be competitive and goal No. 1 is to regain the ECOL Championship," Morris said. "We know we lost a lot of talent, but we feel that we have the talent and the pieces available to have a championship season. We have some good experience and a very good freshman class coming to us. The future continues to be very bright for soccer at Marietta High School.
"On a side note, a huge part I think in our consistency as a program has always been continuity. I have my whole staff back again, with Andy Porter as the JV coach and varsity assistant, and Justin Arthur as an assistant. This year, Colten Holdren will be joining us as an assistant as well."