CONYERS - Salem boys soccer coach Sean DeWeese is expecting big things from his squad this season.
And why not?
The Seminoles return all their starters from last year's team, which finished with an 11-7-2 record and advanced to the second round of the Class AAAA state playoffs. The Salem boys also won the 8-AAAA South title with a perfect 5-0 mark in the subregion.
"I expect the team to do extremely well this year," DeWeese said. "This is the same team that made it to the second round of the state playoffs last year with a year's more experience. The team has been working hard in practice and has high expectations."
So far, the Seminoles are 2-0 heading into tonight's home debut against Northgate at 7:30 p.m. at Evans Memorial Stadium. The Salem boys have defeated Central Gwinnett (6-3) and Lovejoy (7-1).
The Seminoles have eight seniors on their roster, including Nate Pulliam, Colin Easterbrook, Jonathan Ryan, Koy Manget, Blake Whitson and Blake White. Easterbrook, Manget and Whitson were all first-team selections on the Citizen's 2007 All-Area Boys Soccer Team.
The junior class is led by goalkeeper Trent Carpenter, who was the Citizen's Defensive Player of the Year in 2007. Garrett Wallace, a junior defender, also was a first-team pick on the All-Area Team.
"We have many returning players this year, and all of them play a vital role on the team," DeWeese said. "However, there a few players that I am particularly excited to see in action in the next few weeks. Nate Pulliam is a four-year member of the varsity who has worked hard during the high school offseason. He has become a confident and strong player and will definitely help out on the attack this year.
"Colin Easterbrook is another four-year varsity player who will play a vital role on offense and whose speed will help the team in counterattacks. Also helping in the midfield will be Jonathan Ryan, a senior with excellent ball control and tireless energy. Koy Manget brings his ball-distributing skills and a strong right foot back for another season. Blake Whitson, another senior, is a smart player who is strong on both defense and offense. Trent Carpenter will be returning as goalkeeper, anchoring the back end of the field with a high level of skill."
Other key returning players for the Seminoles are junior Jacob Young and sophomore Kawasi Yankee.
DeWeese also is expecting good things from newcomers Daniel Aguilar, Javion Green and Jaleel Brooks.
"This team is strong defensively and is good at working the ball out of the back of the field," DeWeese said. "The players move the ball around well and maintain good possession on the opponent's end of the field. This year, I expect us to be stronger on the attack with better finishing skills."
There is one potential drawback that DeWeese sees in the team.
"My one concern is overconfidence," he said. "The team exceeded expectations last year, and they expect to do even better this year. As long as they keep working hard and go into every match willing to fight for the win, they will do fine. As of yet, I haven't seen any signs of slacking off, and, if anything, they are working harder than last year."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SideBar: At a glance
Team: Salem boys soccer
Coach: Sean DeWeese, second season
Last year: 11-7-2 overall, 5-0 in 8-AAAA South; advanced to second round of Class AAAA state playoffs
Next match: Today, 7:30 p.m. vs. Northgate at Evans Memorial Stadium.