Palmyra boys soccer preview
Coach: A.J. Hull, third season
Last year's record: 8-11-1
Key returners: Sean Bordner, Sr., F; Jared Bowman, Sr., D; Colin Wise, Sr., MF; Sam Sheils, Sr., D; Nick Jeliff, Jr., D; John Jeffrey, Jr., MF; Luke Higgins, Soph., MF.
Promising newcomers: Alec Haldeman, Fr., F; Jack Haldeman, Fr., F; Mitchell Dowling, Fr., MF.
Outlook: The best way Palmyra coach A.J. Hull can explain it is to say there's a new feel about his club; a dynamic that stems from program pride, a talented freshman class and off-season work.
Oh, and these Cougars can also run farther and faster than any he's had before.
“We’ve always been a team that’s been known to have good touches. Now I think we’re going to be one of the most physically fit out there," Hull said. "And that comes from having that high bar for preseason and holding people to that.”
The team's preseason was highlighted by a combined summer camp with Warwick, where the Cougars defense, this season led by Jared Bowman, Sam Sheils and Nick Jeliff, seemingly grew stronger with the heat. Players were also given personalized plans, some tailored for fitness and others skill, to follow in their own free time. The results of those efforts have already shown through, per Hull.
The midfield, he says, will be where the Cougars' skills shines most, though, as their possession game gains strength with more victories on 50-50 balls and tackles. The only question now becomes who creates chances after the graduation of Alex Hoffsmith. The answer figures to be some combination of senior Sean Bordner and any breakout candidates to merge for Palmyra, which may include freshmen Alec and Jack Haldeman.
"So far I like what I’ve seen," said Hull of his goal-scorers, "but it’s mostly just been going against one another.”
Palmyra opens its season with a pair of stiff L-L tests against Elco and Donegal.