Knights hope to improve, build on past success

Published 1:11 pm Monday, July 25, 2016

PANTEGO — Two years ago it was the first winning season. Last year it was the program’s first-ever playoff bid.

Indeed, Terra Ceia soccer has been on the rise in the last few years, thanks to a naturally athletic bunch of players. The bar has been set high for this upcoming season, for which preseason practice begins on Aug. 8. However, the explicit goal going into this year’s campaign isn’t something concrete like advancing past the first round of the playoffs.

“We’re not looking for the playoffs. We’re looking to get better game in and game out,” Knights coach Nate Burns said. “We want to get better week. That’s been our benchmark since I’ve been here. Every time we step on the field, we want to get better than we were last time.”

That drive to get better has encouraged the Knights to take on all comers. Scheduling tougher opponents has been an easier process this year because of last year’s appearance in the playoffs.

“We are now on the radar and a lot of teams come calling, so we have a pretty tough schedule this year,” Burns said, noting showdowns with Wayne County Day and New Life slated for the season. “We welcome the challenge.”

While returning to the playoffs and perhaps making a run might not be the goal that’s directly outlined, the Knights will be able to do just that if they improve with each game.

“If you take care of everything you can control, which is being ready to play when you come to practice and working hard, everything else takes care of itself. The winning happens,” Burns said.

There are nine Knights from last year’s squad returning. Among them will be midfielder Quentin Van Essendelft, who Burns believes will be both a team leader and impact player.

“We have some major players coming back this year,” he said. “Our center midfielder, Quentin Van Essendelft, is a major athlete and a very good soccer player. I expect him to dominate most games.”

Goalkeeper Austin Roscoe is ready and alert incase an opposing attacker breaks his defense. Roscoe returns in net this season for the Knights, providing them with an experienced and stingy last line of defense. (David Cucchiara/WDN)

Even so, he still expects the team to be a pretty young one. While many of those younger players have experience from last year, a lot of them will be asked to step into larger roles. Burns thinks that many of them will rise to the task, including Dawson Cox, who he slated to have a breakout season.

“He started as a 7th and 8th grader,” Burns said. “Now he’ll be a 9th grader, so I expect him to be an impact player and not just a starter … All of our bench players got to play some in most games last year. They got some valuable playing time and they’ll be ready to go.”

Burns believes that the Terra Ceia athletics system as a whole is one of the team’s biggest assets. The overwhelming majority of the Knights play multiple sports so they get plenty of time to build chemistry with one another.

The Knights will also do what they can on the field to accommodate for the group’s youth. Burns is confident in the team’s ability to maximize the talents of the younger players so as to build their confidence.

“When you have 7th graders going against seniors, the physical matchup isn’t going to be in your favor a lot of times,” Burns said. “We have some seniors and some good players and big players, so we try to limit the responsibilities of the younger players so that they can be successful.”

Preseason practice begins on Aug. 8 and the Knights are slated to open the season two weeks later.

“I’m excited for the season. I’m looking for good things and big things for our future,” Burns said.