John Wagner's job is simple on paper, but far more challenging on the soccer pitch.
As the first year coach of the Notre Dame-West Burlington high school boys soccer team, Wagner's task is to get the Nikes over the hump.
ND-WB, ranked eighth in Class 1A, went 16-4 last season, but ultimately fell short in its quest to qualify for the state tournament for the first time in school history.
With many of the key players back from last year, an influx of newcomers and a wave of talented, eager-to-win underclassmen, the pieces are in place for the Nikes to take that final step and get to the state tournament.
Now, it's up to Wagner to put those pieces in the right places and the players to play up to their capabilities.
"We have some really good players who know how to pass the ball and work on assists and we have several goal scorers," said Wagner, who coached many of this year's Nikes in the SESA club and the ND-WB junior high team. "We are really working hard on possession of the ball and moving the ball around a lot."
Thus far, the Nikes have done just that. In their 8-1 start, the Nikes have outscored their opponents, 44-3. ND-WB has goals from 11 different players and 12 players have at least one assist.
Leading the way for the Nikes are senior forward Sturgis Thornton and sophomore midfielder/forward Sam Brueck. Thornton scored 27 goals and had 16 assists last year, while Bruck had eight goals and 12 assists.
The Nikes are bolstered by the return of seniors Jonah Marlow and Gavin Kies, each of whom did not play soccer last year. Already this season, Marlow has 10 goals and four assists, while Kies has a pair of goals and three assists. Their athleticism adds a new dimension to the Nikes' attack.
"Gavin and Jonah haven't played for a while. They played club soccer and they picked it ip quickly," Wagner said.
Freshmen Parker Davis, Carson Wagner and Gabe Zurita have made an immediate impact on offense, while senior Zakk Getz, sophomores Tyass Kreiss and Dawson Gach and freshman Aiden Krell have solidified the Nikes' back line.
ND-WB has two top-notch goalkeepers in senior T.J. Schramm and sophomore Caden Murphy. Two years ago, Schramm had 118 saves and allowed 23 goals. Last season, Murphy had 66 saves and allowed just nine goals. Schramm has seen the majority of the time in the net this season, with 27 saves and three goals allowed.
The Nikes are off to a hot start again. Now, they need to finish strong and make a strong push for the state tournament after falling just short last year in a heartbreaking substate semifinal loss to Iowa Mennonite School.
"We are very excited for the season," Wagner said. "Our goal is to challenge for the conference championship and make a run for state."
Seniors — Zakk Getz, Gavin Kies, Sturgis Thornton, T.J. Schramm, Jonah Marlow, Lucas Pratt. Sophomores — Caden Murphy, Dawson Gach, Jacob Kamrath, Sam Brueck, Josh Smith, Tyas Kreiss, Dante Duff, Yosef Lee. Freshmen — Aiden Krell, Parker Davis, Carson Wagner, Gabe Zurita, Arya Nowroozi, Cole Carper, Cole Ward, Tyler Sankus.
Head coach — John Wagner (first season).
April 15 — at Holy Trinity. April 25 — vs. Central Lee. April 29 — vs. Davenport West. April 30 — vs. Holy Trinity. May 7 — at Mediapolis. May 10-11 — SEI Superconference Tournament, TBA. May 14 — at Burlington. May 16 — at Keokuk.