Last fall was a record-setting season for Mahomet-Seymour boys' soccer. Sixteen wins are the most single-season wins in program history.
But the expectations for 2018 are just as high. Headlined by Austin Carr and Ethan Mansfield, the Bulldogs return two of the best players in the area. Carr led the team with 24 goals last season, while Mansfield had 12 goals and 15 assists.
"There are some nice pieces returning, but we only have one guy in that back line returning, so there are some questions defensively," M-S head boys' soccer coach Jeremy Davis said. "We'll be able to make things happen offensively, and if we can have some people step up and become stalwart defensively."
Carr and Kadyn Jones will be the go-to strikers at the top of the offense. Jones has really emerged, and the junior will take some pressure off Carr and Mansfield.
"Kadyn Jones has had another really strong spring and summer," Davis said. "He will be really creative up top making things happen. Austin does a really good job of stretching people. Last year, he had 24 goals and people really focused on him through the schedule because of how often he could get behind the defenders.
"Kadyn will do a great job in front of the defenders of creating stuff. He won't just play it vertically up the field, but adding another dimension to the attack."
Carr and Jones should combine for a ton of goals, but Mansfield's presence is the thing that will hold the squad together.
"I think he could be the best player in the area, I really do," Davis said. "He wasn't that far off it last year. It's hard to quantify what he does. He had quite a few goals and quite a few assists. I see that still happening.
"But sometimes it is a matter of matching him up against the most dangerous guy on the (opposing) team, and see if he can take them out. We did that against Danville last year when they had a two-time all-state midfielder, and he relished in being matched up against him defensively."
Joah Moore is another terrific midfielder whose impact extends far beyond the scoreboard, but the defense will be a big question mark early in the season. Senior Marc Majeres can really anchor that defense. It'll be up to Grant Odle and Graham Kessler to step up to help the back line.
"Grant Odle and Graham Kessler, they saw some minutes last year, but not a ton," Davis said. "Those are the guys who will have to pull together. Marc Majeres has done a lot for us ever since his sophomore year. He was an every-minute player for us last year. Those three guys will dictate how successful we are this year."
Senior keeper Corey Cebulski is long and athletic. At 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, Cebulski can really save the day.
"He should be really strong for us this year," Davis said. "His reaction is good. He's really athletic, really good pole vaulter. He makes some really great reflex saves."
The first two weeks of the season will set the tone for the year.
M-S kicked off its season with a 1-1 draw against Metamora. The Bulldogs traveled to Champaign Centennial to tangle with the Chargers on Thursday, but results weren't available at press time. They host the 2018 Bulldog Invitational on Saturday at Middletown Field. The Bulldogs should get an early-season test from Class 3A power Normal West, who will be at the invite.
"These first two weeks should tell us a lot of where we are at in terms of postseason success," Davis said. "Normal West has a couple Division I players and they could compete for a state championship. They are very strong."