The Mountaineers helped solidify the area’s soccer reputation last season as they won the Region 5-3A title — a year after winning the Region 7-2A crown — and advanced to the second round of the Class 3A state tournament.
But it only left the team wanting more after feeling like they squandered what they felt should have been a deeper run.
It was the third year in a row the Mountaineers had advanced to the second round or beyond at state, and there is a bigger hunger for more this season after a 15-3 record in 2013.
“I think we are poised to make another run at region champs again, and the boys are excited to hopefully try for a deep run at state,” North Murray coach Matt Chambers said.
The Mountaineers are led by do-everything midfielder Ismael Cruz, but they return the area’s best goalie from last season — junior Manuel Gonzalez. An all-area selection in 2013, Gonzalez finished the year with 84 saves and helped the team in 10 shutouts.
Gonzalez isn’t alone, either — the team will have 14 seniors, with any of the front seven capable of scoring multiple goals on any given night.
For the girls, 2013 was definitely a rebuilding year with an underclassmen-dominated team that included three freshmen starters. It showed as well with a 1-14 record, but by the end of the season, the Lady Mountaineers were a much more competitive team.
This season, coach Justin Frazier expect those difficult times from last year to pay off.
“At the beginning of the 2013 season, we were losing in blowouts, but by the halfway point we were losing close games to top teams in the region,” he said. “Continuing on that momentum, we expect to move past the competitive status reached by the end of the last season to now be a formidable challenger.”
The team will still be young with only two seniors, led by Jennifer Sanchez, who started as a defensive back last year. The large junior class will feature wing Jessica Rangel, midfielders Victoria Jacobo and Leigha Taylor, defender Leslie Rangel, utility player Megan Pittman and keeper Amber Bandy.
“With a nearly full starting lineup returning to the field, along with great new talent added at various grade levels, the team has depth and experience which were sorely lacking last year,” Frazier said. “Going from a team of newbies to a team of veterans should make a big difference this season.”
North Murray’s season opens its season Feb. 25 against visiting Ringgold.