By Tyler Thompson (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Hillcrest Hornets boys’ soccer team has had a rough go the past handful of years.
Those years included two winless campaigns.
And, while the Hornets only netted three wins last season (3-20), the tide appears to be changing — from a tangible and intangible perspective.
Second-year Hornets head coach Roy Hardy Sr. took over a program that was winless its previous two seasons (2017, 2018), compounded with 18 players in 2019.
The team graduated 50 percent of its roster, and while three wins is, in fact, a small step forward — given the landscape the past decade — the ambience has produced a different aura and is much-welcomed.
“The team that graduated, they hadn’t won a game since their freshman year,” said Hardy. “Last year, we won three and scored 18 goals while giving up 92. The year before, the record was 0-21, and scored 11 goals and allowing 141. So, we didn’t give up as many goals.”
Two seniors take over the reins this season: defensive back Gavin Davis and outside midfielder, Scott Zubillaga.
The aforementioned players took stride last season as starters and will be called upon in serving as field generals this fall.
Back in the fold
Junior Brett Sterling (forward/MF) is back from his return from a fractured tibia last year.
Junior Colten Feemster returns and figures to own a starting role as a defensive midfielder/back.
“He came off the bench and gave us some good minutes,” said Hardy.
Sophomore Addison Jackson will also figure into the equation as a starter as a forward or offensive-mid.
“He is small but has some ability. He has some good footwork, and I will be counting on him to give us something up top,” said Hardy.
The chemistry has hit a new apex for the Hornets, and credit is being deferred to last year’s experience.
“We have a new group. They are the alphas and will need to be more vocal,” added Hardy. “This year will be key for the two seniors. Last year, we played every game and I want them to be the focal point on that [vocal leadership].”
Prior to that, with a winless record comes shortened games due to the mercy rule.
But, that all changed last season.
Hardy — who also serves as the girls head coach — addressed the impact of COVID-19.
“We are in uncharted waters,” he said. “It is going to be tough. Other than coaching skills, for all the coaches in any sport at this time, I think we are going to come out of this as better coaches for this. All the hurdles we have to jump. Social distancing, at practices, what do you do? How do you cope with that?”
Players now will bring their own water bottles, Hardy said.
Temperature checks will occur prior to practices and players will have to answer COVID questions.
“If you are talking to them on the sideline, they have to spaced out,” added Hardy.
The season opener is slated for Aug. 28-29 as the team heads to the Lebanon Tournament.
An official time is TBA.
The home opener is Sept. 1 against Waynesville.