The Tomah High School boys soccer team has struggled the last four seasons, but it hasn’t turned Tomah boys away from soccer.
Coach Scott Conzemius and his staff were greeted by 49 players during the first week of practice. The roster size has injected a sense of optimism into a program that hasn’t won more than five games in any of the last four seasons.
The Timberwolves open the season at home Tuesday, Aug. 27 with a Mississippi Valley Conference contest vs. La Crosse Aquinas.
While the roster is back-loaded with freshmen and sophomores, Conzemius believes progress can be made this season with a small but determined group of letterwinners. Only six return from last season’s team, but there’s experience on defense and a desire to move up in the Mississippi Valley Conference standings.
“We’ve had a rough last four years, and they’re tired of losing,” Conzemius said.
The deepest part of the roster is the defense, where seniors Isaiah Nick, Brett Larkin and Aaron Honish all return. Nick was honorable mention all-MVC last season.
“That’s going to be our strength − the center area of the field,” Conzemius said.
The two returning midfielders are seniors Roland Hockstedler and Joe Hesse.
“Both are great on the ball,” Conzemius said. “Roland is going to be the captain of the ship. He’ll determine where the ball goes and will take risks when necessary.”
The only returning forward is senior Tyler Torkelson.
“He’s a natural finisher,” Conzemius said. “If he’s in front of the net, he can create chances. He has a hard shot and likes to scrap in front of the net.”
The Timberwolves have a big hole to fill at goalkeeper with the departure of Nolan Stees, who was second-team all-conference last season. His replacement is Zach Jorgensen, and Conzemius said Jorgensen is ready for the role.
“He has the ability to make big saves and play at a level that keeps the team in games if we struggle defensively, Conzemius said.
Only five juniors are on the roster, so there’s a good probability that underclassmen (12 sophomores, 14 freshmen) could see playing time. Conzemius said the freshmen are the first group to have come up all the way through the advanced youth program.
“The skill level is the highest we’ve seen in a while,” Conzemius said.
He said the upperclassmen will get the first chance at varsity playing time.
“If we’re in good form and we’re winning, we’ll stick with the guys who are winning,” Conzemius said.
He said the goals for 2019 are to contend for a conference title and go deep into the WIAA playoffs.
Tomah finished the 2018 season with a 5-13-0 record and 2-11-0 Mississippi Valley Conference mark. The MVC record was one match short after the final match at La Crosse Central was cancelled due to chronically wet grounds at Fields for Kids in La Crosse.