By RON DEUTER
KINGSFORD - Kingsford boys varsity soccer may lack senior leadership this season, but that's not implying the team is struggling for experience.
Theresa Proudfit/The Daily News Photo
Kingsford soccer coach Alex Milinski leads a drill during practice Tuesday at Commemorative Field.
"At almost every position, we're filling with guys we had here last year," said Alex Milinski, entering his second season as the Flivvers' head coach. "These are guys who took a lot of minutes learning our philosophy and the system we run."
Losing seven seniors, the Flivvers come back a much younger squad, showing just one senior, seven juniors, eight sophomores and three freshmen.
"It'll be a change for us, but I think we'll be able to cope with it," Milinski said. "We just have to find the right fit for the right people. We'll figure that out."
From the midfield up to the strikers, Milinski says everyone knows what's expected and how the Flivvers want to play. In fact, he feels the midfield is the strength of this team.
"I don't want to give too much away, but we're going to look to stack the middle of the field and work everything through there," he said. "We'll defend up front."
Many, if not most, of Kingsford's juniors racked up major minutes last season in key positions, along with a handful of the sophomores who saw good time as freshmen.
"We know the formation and how we're going to play," Milinski said.
Brett Milinski, Collin Hirthe, Austin Crosson, Geno Bianco are among the key returning players up front and in the middle. Guys like Forrest Nelson, Austin Person and senior Peter Fornetti are among the returning defenders. The Flivvers also added sophomore Chris Roell into the mix as a first-year player.
"He's going to help us out a lot," Milinski noted.
The only really new guy in a starring role is the Flivvers keeper, sophomore Josh Hanson. But Milinski has confidence in his development.
"We've got to just keep working with him," Milinski said. "It's such a difference coming to the high school level, what's expected and what you have to do. He's going to be fresh and has to pick up stuff, like now, but if he sticks with it, he's got a lot of potential.
"He reads the ball fairly well. He can guess and follow and the ball. The hardest thing at this level is getting down low and diving. It's taxing on your body."
With practice officially just beginning this week, Milinski plans to use this weekend's tournament at Rhinelander as more of a feel-out phase for his team. He's approaching it more like a preseason tune-up.
"The goal is always at the end of the year, let's be honest, it's always the U.P. Tournament that we're preparing for," he said. "We just take it week by week. There's a lot of little things that come up and you got to address them and that's just how it is."
Of course there are a few other games before the tournament that Milinski has marked.
"We want to always be ready for Iron Mountain and Marquette," he said.
Marquette lost several seniors from last season's U.P. Tournament title team, but Milinski doesn't think that changes much.
"That's one of those teams that is never really rebuilding," he said. "They have such a strong jayvee and varsity program that we expect the same thing out of them every single year."
As for Iron Mountain, Milinski isn't sure what to expect.
"We're probably close to the same level right now," he said. "We'll see when we get that first game, how everything pans out."
And while Milinski prefers to wait a few games before being comfortable to assess his team's true potential, there's no denying he plans to have them working hard to improve each day along the way.
"We don't take a day off," he said. "When we come to practice it's all down to business.
"These guys are looking good. The are passess looking sharp. There are so many little things that you have to fine tune as you develop as a player. The guys will get that through the season. I'm excited to start."
Kingsford's first home game comes Sept. 12 against Big Bay de Noc.
Roster follows (* returner):
SENIOR - Peter Fornetti*.
JUNIOR - Hunter Laing*, Collin Hirthe*, Brett Milinski*, Taylor Wickman*, Noah Voss, Austin Crosson*, Forrest Nelson*.
SOPHOMORE - Chris Roell, Austin Person*, Liam McConnell*, Geno Bianco*, Zack Jones, Zac Stankevich*, Jack Bruns*, Josh Hanson.
FRESHMAN - Kameron Benjamin, Thomas List, John Fayas.
IRON MOUNTAIN - Iron Mountain varsity boys soccer, coming off its most successful season in its short history, enters the 2013 fall campaign with several new faces and no shortage of potential.
The Mountaineers, who came up a goal short against Marquette for the U.P. title after beating the Redmen for the first time ever earlier in the season, saw eight seniors depart, including leading scorer Nick Brule and all-state goalie Max Frorenza.
"Six of them never came off the field," third-year head coach Rob Bogaudo said. "We're going to see new faces this year. Who and where they will be at this point, I'm not exactly sure. We have a lot of very athletic kids."
The 2013 Mountaineers show healthy roster numbers with 23 players. There are 10 seniors, eight juniors, one sophomore and four freshmen on the team. Bogaudo sees an overwhelming amount of raw talent up and down the lineup, but he understands it will take some time for this group to learn the game and gain experience.
"I really don't know what to expect," he said.
"The goal would be to win as many games as possible, make sure the kids are having fun and try to create a confidence in the kids that they're going to carry beyond soccer, beyond high school and into the rest of their lives."
Seniors Sam Carey, a defenseman, and Sawyer Kujala, a forward, have earned captain designation for the Mountaineers.
Carey, along with junior Conor Larson, will anchor the Mountaineers defensively.
"Conor is an incredible athlete," Bogaudo said. "You're going to see him and Sam and whoever they want to have. They can work that out. I like to give a lot of responsibility to the kids."
In the middle of the field, Bogaudo will rely on guys like juniors Derek Klarich, David Bogaudo, who begins the season injured. Strikers will include Kujala and fellow seniors Ryan Ducharme, a first-year soccer player, and Andrew Boersma.
"Ducharme is like lightning," Bogaudo said. "He just needs to work on his skills and learn the game."
Bogaudo also figures to find big roles for guys like Corbin Henkel, Jared Gauthier and Nathan Trepp, all juniors.
"Henkel came in to practice in shape," Bogaudo said. "He has skills and will be a big part of this team. Same thing with Gauthier, should be someone to look forward to seeing on the field."
Bogaudo said Trepp is probably the most improved player he has coached.
Freshmen Sam Kuchinski and Tysen Wadge should also see time up front.
"They have very good skill levels already as freshmen," Bogaudo noted.
In net, the Mountaineers turn to 6-foot-5 keeper Zach Caudell. A senior, Caudell is new to the net, learning the position on the fly.
"He's made considerable improvement since we started practicing," Bogaudo said. "Hopefully he'll be the next Max Frorenza. He's crazy tall. But we have some work to do with him."
The Mountaineers lineup figures to be fluid and a work in progress through the early going.
"I'm not sure how to play this team yet," Bogaudo said. "My hope is to win as many games as possible for the kids. We'll have to see how that goes.
"I like to win, but I don't have to be a winning coach as long as my team works together and takes something out of the experience that they can take into the rest of their lives. I would like to beat Marquette again and would like to beat Kingsford. Those are the games that would be a lot of fun to win, but is it going to happen? We'll know after the game."
Bogaudo points out that Iron Mountain was not the only team to take a hit through graduation.
"Kingsford lost its share, and Marquette has lost a lot of kids too," he said. "So I don't know what to expect. It's really a new year."
Bogaudo has added Aaron Rochon and Darren Groleau as assistant coaches. Both are guys Bogaudo has known through adult league soccer.
"It's nice because I need the help," he said. "They work hard and inspire the kids."
Iron Mountain will play three games this weekend at Rhinelander. The Mountaineers then remain on the road for four contests before to battle Kingsford Tuesday, Sept. 17.
Roster follows (* returner):
SENIOR - Patrick Healy*, Matt Anderson*, Marco Savarin*, Sawyer Kujala*, Sam Carey*, Garrett TeKampe*, Andrew Boersma, Zack Caudell, Dane Bronzyk, Ryan Ducharme.
JUNIOR - David Bogaudo*, Derek Klarich*, Nathan Trepp*, Conor Larson*, Benjamin Klitzke, Jared Gauthier, Robert Norton, Corbin Henkel.
SOPHOMORE - Ty Sullivan*.
FRESHMAN - Peter Healy, Sam Kuchinski, Andrew Fletcher, Tysen Wadge.