He always seems relaxed in his office chair at Waynesville High, but head soccer coach Mike Armstrong is all business when he steps onto the Tigers field.
WAYNESVILLE – He always seems relaxed in his office chair at Waynesville High, but head soccer coach Mike Armstrong is all business when he steps onto the Tigers field.
This week of practice has been no different despite a huge turnaround, which began in 2011 when 11 senior starters graduated. Then, in 2012, the Tigers lost an additional nine seniors.
After finishing a disappointing 11-9 overall a year ago, this season only five seniors and few players with varsity experience return.
Among those who will rejoin the squad again in 2013 is junior goalkeeper Jon Moore.
"He played mostly [junior varsity] last year, but he did step in when [former keeper Lajos Zadravecz] got hurt, especially in the Rock Bridge game – he did great against them," Armstrong said. "I feel very confident that he can handle it.
"He's great at communicating," Armstrong continued. "For people who don't know soccer, the keeper is like a quarterback. Him being a big guy and being loud and positive really helps us."
Other returners include senior fullback Robert Bruns, senior forward Shane Jewett, senior fullback Brandon Ruess and senior goalkeeper Logan Long.
Because several former junior varsity players will be asked to join the varsity team, however, positions are likely to change as Armstrong and the Tigers coaching staff adapts to a fresh roster that is "constantly changing."
The younger guys, Armstrong said, "show some promise."
"I'm pleasantly surprised how well [new student-athletes] are picking stuff up and getting in shape," Armstrong said. "They're juniors who have been waiting for their chance."
Because Waynesville has an experienced coaching staff – assistants Mike Gow and Eric Thornburg – Armstrong said younger players should be groomed and ready to spark the varsity Tigers.
"Coach Gow was a head coach over at Lebanon and he knows exactly what he's doing," Armstrong said. "He trains the [junior varsity team] exactly the way I need him to, so, when the guys get to me, they're set and ready to go."
Armstrong said sophomore Hunter Ball and juniors Vince Houston and Louis Tejada are poised to make an immediate impact at the varsity level.
"This year, we're going to have to move the ball a little bit differently," Armstrong said. "We used to have kids who were hands-down faster than anybody else we ever played against. This year, we're a little slower."
The Tigers are scheduled to host Rolla and Washington in a jamboree event at 5 p.m. Thursday.
"Washington and Rolla … are both good tests for us," Armstrong said. "They'll make sure we know what we're doing."
Waynesville's first regular season contest will take place at home against Sullivan at 5 p.m. August 30.