Boys soccer: Boulder Panthers undergo makeover
Two years ago, the Boulder boys soccer team scored a program record 68 goals and advanced to the Class 5A state quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
Last year, Boulder scored 30 fewer goals and reached the state semifinals.
Needless to say, the Panthers are finding different ways to win and they will be put to the test again this year.
Coming off yet another program-best season, the defending Front Range League champions reload with 10 new full-time starters, although eight players return with varsity experience.
“It is a big loss,” said senior midfielder Jack Huettel, the lone returning full-time starter with all-state credentials to his name. “But I think we can make up for
it. We lost some big goal scorers and some great defenders, but we’re playing really good team soccer. As a team, we can get there.”
‘There,’ to the Panthers means getting back to the state semifinals at the very least.
And the loss of so many starters isn’t as big of a deal to them as it might be to other programs.
Boulder coach Hardy Kalisher points to one statistic as a reason why he’s not lamenting the loss of so much experience as the Panthers try to make the playoffs for the sixth consecutive season and defend their first ever conference title.
“Last year our goalkeeper and all four defensive backs had a 0.6 goals against average, which was the lowest in program history,” Kalisher said. “Every one of them was a brand new starter. … It’s not a rebuilding year. That’s never the intent.”
Huettel and senior forward Rojesh Shrestha bring the most experience to the Panthers. Huettel is a three-year starter and Shreshta has been played at the varsity level for the past three years.
Kalisher will also be looking for contributions from these key seniors: midfielder Omar Bouchta, defender Ben Kates, defender Jake Lowell and defender Michael Ozeroff.
“The guys that were on the team last year learned a lot, especially from the seniors,” Ozeroff said. “We know what it takes to get to the semifinals.”
While the older players will be looked to for leadership, the newcomers will be expected to contribute.
The Panthers expect to be better at possession the ball and more sophisticated tactically this year.
“This team is creative,” Huettel said. “Last year it was very set and we had a lot of strong players in certain areas, but this year there is no weak link. We know how to break down a defense. We know how to keep the ball and we’re very composed.”
Depth will be an asset to Boulder this year.
Kalisher expects to carry 23 players on the varsity roster and as many as 18 will see regular playing time.
“Every one of them can play for a Front Range League team,” Kalisher said. “There’s no point in just wearing the uniform.”