Gilman soccer coach Jon Seal likes talking about the 2014 season, which is understandable after the Greyhounds finished 9-8-1 last season — their worst record since 2006.
Gilman failed to advance to the Maryland Interscholastic Athletic Association A Conference championship game after three straight appearances there.
The Greyhounds had to contend with injuries and the absence of as many as five starters in 2013, but as league play kicks off Friday against last year's conference runner-up St. Paul's in Brooklandville, Seal has done his best to make sure 2014 is a fresh beginning.
To start with, Seal has a roster of 30 players, which gives the Greyhounds depth. Gilman needed reinforcements after losing 13 seniors to graduation.
"It's the biggest team I've ever had," said Seal, who has a 118-79-19 record in 11 years. "We are as deep as we have ever been. The past few years, we have been maybe two or three deep. Now, I can go seven or eight deep and not really miss a beat. That's very exciting."
The roster includes 12 sophomores and three freshmen. Five of those sophomores started in the season opener against Boys' Latin on Aug. 28.
"We needed to get our talent level back up where it needs to be so we can be competitive with a team like McDonogh," Seal said of a squad ranked No. 2 nationally in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America preseason poll. "The sophomores and freshmen can play for us this year. I thought, from a development standpoint, we can mold them into what we want them to be."
Seal is counting on some of younger players to become goal-scorers since Gilman graduated three players, who recorded double digits in goals, including Brendan Barger, Andrew Gemma and Sam Wancowicz, a freshman playing at the University of Pennsylvania and the 2014 Baltimore Messenger male Athlete of the Year.
The coach hopes to get solid offensive production from Jake Waxter, Andy Matthews, Chris Wolfe, Luke Granger and Vinay Chandra.
"You are losing almost 45 goals," Seal said. "We are going to struggle to score goals. We don't have one guy coming back that even had one goal."
Until the Greyhounds get some consistent scoring, they will rely on defense, which appears to be the strength of the team.
Gilman returned three starting defenders: Waxter, Matthews and Wolfe. Waxter and Matthews are co-captains.
"If we only have a handful of seniors, I am glad they are in the back," Seal said. "I really think they have the ability to keep teams off the board and help an inexperienced goalkeeper."
They're protecting junior first-year starting goalie Jake Young, who is backed up by senior Nick Johnson and sophomore Hunter Dase.
"Jake is a guy who has gotten a lot of one-on-one training," Seal said. "The more he plays, the better and more confident he is going to become. We just have to continue to work with him."
Young made six saves to help Gilman to a 3-1 victory over Boys' Latin in the season opener for both schools.
After a slow start, the Greyhounds adjusted and scored two late goals. Wolfe helped set up the game-winner and scored his team's final goal.
Five days later, Gilman's home game against Georgetown Prep was suspended because of thunder. The game will not be rescheduled.
"This is going to be a work in progress," Seal said. "We just have to be patient and make sure we are playing our best soccer when it counts. That's in October and early November."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun