The first three years of Tom Searson’s tenure as head coach of Marshfield boys soccer are a good measuring stick for progression.
“In the beginning, it took a while to bring some consistency to the program,” Searson said.
Over those few seasons, the Jays enjoyed just 15 victories combined. They averaged roughly a goal per game while conceding three or four on average.
The improvement has been marked since, with essentially a .500 record over the past handful of years, and a highlight in 2015 of a Class 3 district title.
“Once we established what our team was going to be about, it helped build from year to year,” says Searson, now entering his ninth season. “I feel as if we have established ourselves as a hard-working team that will compete every time we are on the field. We never know what type of players we are going to get from year to year, but the expectation to play hard and play with integrity can be consistent.
The style has changed in some of those seasons. Searson confessed he’s been fortunate to have players the last few years with a great deal of speed, which had dictated play, and hopes this year to utilize possession in order to control the tempo and hopefully get more numbers in the attack.
Marshfield scored a total of 55 goals in 2018, though a number of that has been lost to graduation through forward Jarrett Meyer, the program's all-time leading scorer (66 goals), and midfielder Drew Barb, who tallied 10. Searson confesses the source of replacing those goals is probably the biggest question mark surrounding this year’s team, but believes there are a number of candidates who can give some degree of offensive production.
Jessee Owens, a sophomore, could be the next talented scorer to come through the pipeline, and he’s expected to shift from his midfield role as a freshman into a more advanced position. Coltan Arentz is expected to be a help in the buildup, as will be his opposite at wide midfielder, Hudson Aikens. Michael Pennington has also proven to be the type willing to get forward in the attack, as are several young players like Connor Bixler and Kelby Hyder.
“It will take some time to form our identity on the attack, but I think we’ve got some guys who are ready to step up,” Searson said.
Elsewhere, there will be other players expected to shift roles for the better of the Blue Jays. Danny Parrish brought some scoring qualities out of the midfield last year, but with only one returning defender from last year, Will Snider, Parrish will be counted on to anchor the defense.
“Danny will help us build from the defensive end,” Searson said. “He brings experience and leadership to the defense that, when paired with the effort Will, it will help make our defense a solid unit.”
Rounding out the defense is freshman Joe Harles, who has looked strong in practice, as well as Chandler Zimmerman, who returns after being sidelined with injuries.
Helping organize the defense will be Mathew Derecichei, who split time in goal and now makes the job his own as a sophomore.
“I am really looking forward to how he will grow as the full-time keeper this year,” Searson said. “He plays the position with passion and could be a difference-maker. We are fortunate to have Justin Kanengieter with us as an assistant coach this year, and I think he will be able to help bring Mathew to a whole other level. When you combine Mathew with the solid four backs in front of him, I think this team will be able to compete with the best.”
Parrish’s deployment into the back line means opportunity for others. Senior Jadon Wipf is a hard worker who will contribute defensively, and he will be joined by sophomore Justin Hanson, who has impressed early with his ability on both sides of the ball.
Back-to-back games on Sept. 4 and 5 will see the team open against Camdenton (at home) and Crocker (away), followed by a trip to face Springfield Catholic on Sept. 10. That will be followed two days later by the Warrior Classic, which includes games against the host, New Covenant Academy, along with Hillcrest and Cassville. Searson said that it will be a good opportunity early on test and improve his side.
Meyer and Barb helped give the Blue Jays a reputation as a team to be reckoned with offensively, but how well the team does in establishing its identity as a defensive presence could determine the success of this fall’s squad.
“To get special wins and compete against teams like Catholic, Rogersville, Monett, Bolivar … it’s going to take a commitment on the defensive side of the ball. I’ve been pleased with the senior leadership so far, though, and I think if we stay focused and committed to the effort it takes to win, this team will surprise some people.”
Bryan Everson can be followed on Twitter @BryanEversonMF.