A strong back line is vital to the success of a soccer team.
Case in point, the 2015 Gettysburg boys' soccer team, which posted an absurd 12-straight shutouts and a total of 18 clean sheets in its 25 matches last season.
That helped the Warriors win their first 22 matches of the year and finish the campaign 23-2.
This year, though, head coach Scott Hancock will need to replace all three starters as Bobby Weikert, Isaac Myers and Zach Shoemaker have all graduated leaving a sizable void in front of junior goalkeeper Yanni Tassou.
"That's definitely our biggest question mark heading into the season," Hancock said. "We've got to try to put together a good back-line and it won't be easy given how good the guys were that graduated."
Hancock mentioned junior Peter Hsu, sophomores David James and Jaden Santoyo, along with freshman Logan Carbaugh as possible replacements. He also said senior Alex Cowden or junior Kellen Fees may get moved from midfielder to defender to have a more experienced player in the back. Cowden and Fees both started as midfielders a year ago.
"We need to have confidence in our back-line," senior Drew Wivell said. "There's definitely some talent back there, but it will take some time to develop it."
Tassou, who split time in net with Matt Balas throughout the regular season last year — before earning the starting nod in the postseason — is the likely starter this season. Though Hancock did say that junior Jose Mejia is quite talented and a capable backup.
Up front, senior Matt Yingling (24 goals, 12 assists) returns at striker and has posted 41 career goals to become the seventh Gettysburg player ever to reach the 40-goal plateau. Yingling is 16 goals behind his brother, Adam, who graduated last spring, for third on the school's all-time goal-scoring list and he's 26 behind 1996 graduate Mike Campbell for second. But Matt isn't worried about that right now.
"Adam and I talked before he left for college (Ohio Wesleyan) last weekend and he asked me how many goals I would score this year," Matt said. "But I'm not really concerned with that. I'm worried about how the team plays together and then we'll see who scores the goals."
Adam earned the YAIAA Division II Player of the Year award after netting 30 goals in 2015 from his center-attacking midfielder position and Wivell (four goals, 10 assists) has been tasked with trying to fill Adam's shoes as best he can.
"I've always played behind Drew Riggle and Adam Yingling in the midfield," Wivell said. "But it's time for me to lead the young guys now."
Riggle is also playing his collegiate soccer at Ohio Wesleyan and the other starter who graduated is striker Connor Weikert (8 goals).
Hancock sees sophomore Cade Wilhelm (2 goals, 3 assists) as capable of stepping in either as a midfielder or a striker, depending upon who else earns starting spots.
"We're a young team, but one thing that we do have is speed," Hancock said. "We're not blazing fast, but we're not slow, either."
Despite the losses to graduation and moving from Class AA to AAA, Yingling feels the team can still be successful.
"We have a different team and a different starting point than we had last year," he said. "But our goals are mostly the same."
Those include winning YAIAA Division II, making a run in the district tournament and qualifying for the state tournament.
"Winning the division title again is going to be tough," Hancock said. "Susquehannock and West York are always very good and York Suburban can be a tough team to deal with."
It's been quite a run for the Warriors since 2010 as they have piled up a 104-22 record, winning five division titles, going 69-3 in division play and making the district championship match and winning a state playoff match in each of the past two years.
Hancock has compiled a 121-37-1 record in his eight years at the helm.
"Moving up in class from AA to AAA, our goal is to make the playoffs and hopefully be in the top-half of the bracket," he said. "We have to win the games that we should win and try to get ones that maybe we shouldn't. Games where our opponent is the better team are vital for us to pick off as many as we can."
The 2016 season begins for the Warriors when they host the 15th Annual Gettysburg Kickoff Classic on Sept. 3. They face Littlestown at 9 a.m., while Biglerville faces Northern at the same time. The winners then meet for the championship at 1 p.m. with the losers playing in the consolation match at the same time.