HANNIBAL – There may be a first on an Eric Hill-coached soccer team this fall.
In his 17 seasons coaching, the Hannibal boys soccer coach has stuck with one goalkeeper throughout the season. That could change this spring.
"We may be a goalkeeper by committee this year," Hill said. "I’ve never done that before. We’ll just wait and see how it plays out."
Hill, however, isn’t taking that approach because he wants to try it. He’s taking it because he’s tasked with filling several spots that are up for grabs because of heavy graduations from last year’s team that went 16-7.
The Pirates return just five full-time starters, and just one of those are on defense.
That means new faces in key roles, and some of those faces could be freshmen.
"We lost a lot and have a lot of new guys," senior forward Nate DeStefane said. "We’re just going to try and gel together. If we have problems scoring or things like that, we’ll look into it. But we’re just going into this how we are."
Fortunately for the Pirates, they get time to find that cohesion. Practice opened Monday, and Hannibal won’t play its first game until Sept. 6 when it hosts Elsberry. That gives Hill nearly four full weeks to figure out the best 11 players that need to be on the field.
He knows a couple of players already. DeStefane returns as a 20-goal scorer for Hannibal last season, and he will be the focal point of the Pirates’ offense this year. Hill hopes other forwards like Kollin Westhoff, Tristen Terrill, Trevauhn Jenkins and Jacob Young will also find the net.
"I expect them to give us a little bit of a scoring punch and feed of what Nate gives us," Hill said.
In back, Mason Tharp is the lone defender with varsity experience. He automatically becomes the anchor of the defense as he moves from outside back to the middle.
Everywhere else, the Pirates will have new and inexperienced players filling in.
"They’ll have to play big roles," Terrill said. "We’ll have to help out those younger guys."
The biggest question mark the Pirates have is in net. Hill said Caden Cook, Drew Tweedy and Blade Terrill could all see time at goalkeeper this season.
Despite all the inexperience, the Pirates insist the expectations for this season haven’t changed. The Pirates are still aiming for North Central Missouri Conference and district championships.
"It’s the same goals," DeStefane said. "We want to do well and we want to win."
The Pirates have time to figure that out.
"It’ll be a lot tougher this year," Terrill said. "But it’s all the same."