Boardman High School boys soccer coach Eric Simione has a good number of potential players this year. He said 52 athletes are trying out for the 32 to 35 positions that will make up the upcoming season's varsity and junior varsity team.
The team is coming off a year that saw the Spartans make it to the district semi-finals. They lost that match to powerhouse Massillon Jackson, who went on to win the districts. A lot of the players from that team are returning this year and are ready for a repeat attempt at the district championship.
''We have 16 returning lettermen,'' Simione said.
Photos by J.T. Whitehouse, Town Crier
Returning BHS soccer senior Vince Mancini gets in some voluntary practice last week as a more experienced Spartan soccer team prepares for a good 2014 season.
He said the team has eight seniors trying out this year, along with a lot of juniors. On the other side, there are 12 freshmen who can help keep the program going down the road.
Last week, the team was in voluntary practice session. Simione said teams are allowed 10 practice sessions with the ball that are basically for conditioning and for athletes to get used to handling the ball on their own.
''Once August hits, we can do what we want,'' Simione said.
One thing the team is looking forward to this year is playing home games on artificial turf. Simione said the construction is moving along at the high school, stadium and is expected to be ready for the opening home game for the soccer season.
''There is not a huge difference between grass and turf, but the game on turf is sometimes faster play,'' the coach said.
Last season, half of the season's games were played on turf. Only Boardman and Howland were still using grass soccer fields.
Boardman will open the season at YSU on Aug. 19 when they take on Ursuline. The first home game is scheduled for Aug. 28 against Mooney.
''If the stadium project stays on schedule, we will be playing on turf,'' Simione said. ''If not, we will be playing on grass at the Center Middle School stadium one last time.''