It has been four years since the Minot High School boy's soccer team won a state tournament game, a streak that head coach Cody Saunders hopes to break as the season opens Saturday for the Magicians.
Following an 11-9-1 campaign in 2011 that ended with an overtime loss to Fargo Shanley in the consolation bracket of the state tournament, the Magi believe they have the skills to find success at the end of the season. The Magicians boast a roster with five seniors, eight juniors, four sophomores and one freshman.
"We definitely have a lot of talent this year," Saunders said. "As long as they buy into the system, it's going to be an exciting season. They have to buy into the system because they know they have a lot of talent, but we have to also get the team concept down. If they can do that than it's going to be really fun."
Jordan Foley, center, dribbles the ball as Josiah Negron, right, and K.J. Wright close in during Minot High School’s practice Monday at Optimist Soccer Complex.
A the lack of scoring plagued the Magicians the latter half of the season. The Magi scored just one goal in two games at last season's state tournament.
"Scoring at the end of the year was what we struggled with," Saunders said. "In the bigger games we played well but we didn't score."
Leading the offensive attack this season will be the brotherly duo of senior forward P.K. Annan and sophomore midfielder Ekow Annan, both of which were awarded with West Region all-conference honors. They will look to replace the holes left by fellow West Region all-conference honorees John Wrona and Trevor Hoggan, who graduated in June.
Meet the Magicians
Seniors - Jordan Foley, Bryce Veazey, Josiah Negron, Austyn Otteson, P.K. Annan
Juniors - Ben Love, Jack Schmidt, Drew Johnson, Jake Saunders, Aaron Bolinske, Tyler Crabtree, Ryan Crabtree, Garrett Weishaar
Sophomores - Teegan Olson, Ekow Annan, K.J. Wright, Blaise Stanley
Freshman - Matt Oswalt
August - Saturday, E/W Crossover, at Jamestown vs. Grand Forks Red River, 12:30 p.m., Grand Forks Central, 5:30 p.m.; 23, vs. Bismarck Century, 7:30 p.m.; 28, vs Mandan, 7:30 p.m.; 30, at Bismarck St. Mary's, 6 p.m.
September - 4, at Bismarck High, 8 p.m.; 7, at Jamestown, 7:30 p.m., 13, at Bismarck Century, 7:30 p.m.; 14-15, E/W Crossover, at West Fargo, TBA; 18, vs. Bismarck, 7:30 p.m.; 22, vs. Fargo Davies, 2:30 p.m.; 27, at Mandan, 7:30 p.m.; 29, vs. Jamestown, 2 p.m.
October - 2, vs. Bismarck St. Mary's, 7:30 p.m.; 5-6, West Region, at Mandan, TBA; 11-13, State Tournament, at Fargo, TBA.
"The amount of seniors we lost last season was significant, but I think we can fill it with hard-working juniors who've proven themselves so far," P.K. Annan said.
Saunders said finding players to score won't be a problem this season; the tough part will be determining which players should start.
"There's probably 24 kids in our program that could play on the varsity team, but I can only have 18," Saunders said. "There really isn't one name. We have to buy into that team concept."
Sanders said team unity will be the difference between a successful season and a season of disappointment. With Saturday's opener just a few days away, P.K. Annan believes his group has bought into the concept.
"The team unity is pretty high," Annan said. "Everyone's morale is pretty high."
Annan set the bar high for himself and the team this season.
"I think we should qualify for the state championship," Annan said. "We should become closer as a team. We're already pretty close, but we need to get closer and start passing the ball more and finding the net more. Even though it's the beginning of the season, I think from the beginning to the end of the season we'll do really well. It's always the team before me, but for me I'd like to make all-conference again, score more goals and help my team win."
On the opposite side of the ball is a defense led by junior goalie Ben Love, who was the fifth member of last year's team to receive West Region all-conference honors.
Saunders, who is entering his fourth season as head coach, is happy with his team so far and hopes the unity he's been stressing throughout practice will lead to that elusive state tournament victory.
"Being able to own up to the good and the bad is what it takes and also having the older kids work hard and demonstrate what it takes for the younger kids," Saunders said. "So far I love the communication they have with each other. This could really be a special year if we can keep that positive energy going."
The Magicians open the season against Grand Forks Red River on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Jamestown.