Soccer team to feature large group of returning starters
Vikings prepare for 2019 season with first official practices and scrimmage event last week
Caleb Casey | Managing Editor
Grayling High School’s varsity boys soccer squad has solid overall numbers this year and most of its starters back from a successful 2018 regular season, a year in which the Vikings posted a record of 11-4.
As of last week, the soccer team had 18 players, an amount that Coach Brad Wagner described as “perfect.”
“That’s always been a pretty consistent number. Pretty evenly distributed,” Coach Wagner said.
The team has a mix of new players and veteran players with a strong core of returning starters.
“A lot of experience,” Coach Wagner said. “I bet we’re returning eight or nine starters.”
Coach Wagner said the program had a productive offseason this summer by playing in a 7 on 7 league and going to its annual team camp at Oakland University.
“That’s always the highlight of it,” Coach Wagner said regarding the Oakland trip and its place in the offseason activities.
Coach Wagner said the Oakland University camp is three days, two nights of soccer drills and games.
“It’s great because it’s a super high level of soccer,” Coach Wagner said. “It shows the fellas a really high level of the game. We get great coaching.”
The Vikings started their official practice sessions for the 2019 season on Monday, August 12. On Wednesday, August 14 – after two days of normal practicing – the Vikings hosted a scrimmage event, playing against Alpena and Clare.
Coach Wagner said the first few practice sessions of the season were “really good.” He said the team has a practice drill that is “always disorganized” the first time the players run through it, but this year it went well and the players were “in sync with each other.”
“It was a good first couple of days. They’re ready to get on the bus and start drinking the Kool-Aid,” Coach Wagner said.
Coach Wagner said midfield play should be a strength of the squad this year.
“The middle of the field. Strong returning midfield. You’ve got a couple returning, decorated athletes. There’s a lot of returning strength and stability,” Coach Wagner said.
Coach Wagner said the team is looking to improve on its touches and its movement away from the ball.
“Having a purpose with everything we do, whether it’s a touch or a pass. What we do away from the ball has to make sense. Making sure every touch has a purpose and a reason,” Coach Wagner said.
Last year, the Vikings lost to only two teams: Elk Rapids and Boyne City. Both teams are in the Lake Michigan Conference with Grayling, and Coach Wagner said he expects both of those squads – along with the other schools in the league – to provide a challenging regular season again this year.
“Every team is a challenge. Every team has talent,” Coach Wagner said. “Elk Rapids is always hard but I expect to be very competitive with our conference. Boyne City was good last year. I know they’re going to have good numbers again.”
For the playoffs, Grayling is in District 48 this year with Boyne City, Cheboygan, Elk Rapids, Harbor Springs, Kalkaska, Kingsley, and Traverse City Christian.
The Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) made a change to its postseason for soccer this year, implementing an adjustment to the district tournaments with a seeding process in an effort to have the top teams in the brackets meet in the district finals more often.
“Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, girls and boys basketball and soccer will employ a seeding process to place the top two teams in every district on opposite sides of that bracket, guaranteeing those two teams could not play each other before the district championship game,” according to the MHSAA. “The two teams to be seeded in each district will be determined using a Michigan Power Ratings computer formula based on regular season results against other MHSAA tournament-eligible teams and opponents’ strength of schedule. The MHSAA will draw all brackets two weeks before the start of district play. After the top seeds are determined and separated to opposite sides of the bracket, the draw process will place the remaining teams on the bracket based on a randomly selected order determined earlier in the season. The draw process does not guarantee the seeded teams will receive byes or serve as home teams.”
The soccer team’s home game vs. the Kingsley Stags scheduled for 5 p.m. on Friday, August 23, has been canceled. Grayling will play at Suttons Bay at 5 p.m. on Monday, August 26.