Coach Jeremiah Johnson will be the first to say that this season will be a rebuilding year for Havelock soccer.
But, he’ll also be the first to say that even though his team lost all but two starters from a year ago, he feels the Rams can compete in the tough Coastal 3A Conference.
Leading scorer Noah Kemble is off to college at George Mason, and the Rams lost other key seniors including Kevin Quinn, R.J. Howard, Jason Hollister and Omar Gonzalez as well.
“I mean when you lose a player like Noah (Kemble), it’s hard not to be in a rebuilding stage, and only having six varsity players returning, two of which started, but our JV guys are solid,” Johnson said. “I feel that they have played together a lot and enough that we can still compete in our conference.”
Havelock will have two captains this season in senior Dylan Baker and junior John Mills.
The roster figures to have a mix of youth and veterans despite losing all but two starters. Johnson still has nine rising seniors on the roster, and he feels he has some freshmen that can step up and help out on the varsity level.
Johnson said the key for this year’s team to have success is maintaining possession and playing smart soccer.
“We have to be able to maintain possession and utilize our strengths on the outside,” he said.“I feel like we have some guys who can be dangerous from the outside and attack the opposing keeper and keep him on his toes.”
Baker, a defender, said he is ready to lead, and feels the Rams’ starting lineup can compete with anyone.
“I think with our starting lineup out there, we are looking pretty good,” Baker said. “We have a lot of expectations to live up to and our defense is going to be huge for us. We have to stay in our positions and play solid defense every match.”
Johnson listed Baker, Mills, Caleb Baxley, Cody Gundloch, Justin Kilgore, Christian Hoomana and keeper Justin Temple as players he is heavily relying upon this upcoming season.
Havelock finished in fourth place in the Coastal 3A Conference a year ago and earned a wild card playoff berth.
“I want to see us improve, of course,” he said. “Everybody wants to win the conference and be number one, but if we can get third and be better and improve, I’d take it.”
The Rams open the season against New Bern on Monday at Havelock High.