The 2015 Lansdowne High boys soccer squad went unbeaten in 12 regular season games, but that hasn't stopped coach George Dunn from having even higher expectations this year.
"Let's see how far we get in the playoffs," Dunn said. "We want to make it to the final four. That's our goal."
The Vikings were 11-0-1 last year during the regular season. The only blemish was a 1-1 tie with Owings Mills in the second game of the year.
In the playoffs, the top-seeded Vikings blanked Milford Mill, 3-0, but were eliminated by Franklin, 3-1.
Franklin is one of 12 Baltimore County teams that plays in Division I.
The top team from Division I North/West plays the first-place team from Division I East/South in the Baltimore County championship game.
Catonsville, the defending county champion, plays in Division I East/South.
Lansdowne is one of 12 teams in Division II and those teams are not eligible to play in the county champioonship game.
In 2014, the Vikings finished 11-4 and lost in the regional finals, so after 23 victories the past two seasons, Dunn believes they are ready to move up to Division I.
"I absolutely would like to play up," Dunn said. "I think now, after having a couple of winning years, I think we are going to look at that for next year."
Lansdowne will play three teams (Parkville, Pikesville and Kenwood) in the upper division this season and Dunn and new assistant coach Rob Boutwell think the Vikings have the talent to compete with them.
"I think we have a good core of guys back and they are bringing that team play together," Dunn said.
That core includes tri-captains Ling Har, Bryan Rios and Oscar Madrid.
Senior Har (4 goals, 7 assists in 2015) and junior Madrid are in the midfield and senior Rios (6 goals) is the stopper on defense.
Dunn has high hopes for Rios.
"I'd really like him to develop as a leader and delegate," Dunn said. "He doesn't have to take every free kick or every corner kick."
Veteran Samuel Hmung, a junior, returns to provide protection on defense.
"He was kind of an unsung hero last year playing left back and he was matched up against the best guy most times," Dunn said. "He's a real shutdown kind of guy. He's going to be an impact player this year."
Sophomore starting goalie Nick White got a taste of varsity action last year after getting promoted from the JV and starting in the regional playoffs.
White has improved under the tutelage of new Lansdowne JV coach Jack Linsenmeyer and he'll be backed up by senior Colby Chaney.
Senior Paul Gaylon and junior John Sosa help out in the midfield and junior Brendan Bloom will be in the defensive mix.
Juniors Ronald Morales and Edwin Morales are new to the program and should make an immediate impact in the midfield and defense, respectively.
Sophomore Hung Naing and senior Maung Hnai will be counted on as strikers to replace the scoring production of graduated players Obet Makano (11 goals), Benny Brankoff (8 goals, 4 assists), AJ McCho-Nji (7 and 4) and Jamie Quansah (2 and 4).
Brankoff, McCho-Nji and Quansah are playing at Hagerstown Community College.
"Naing will be an instant presence on the field," Dunn said. "He's a powerful guy."
Last year's team featured speed and finesse and Dunn learned a lesson after that style was exposed when his team defeated Milford Mill in the playoffs.
The Morning Sun
"We played against Milford Mill and they beat us up," Dunn said. "We were physically banged up in that game. We don't want to get in those physical struggles against those kinds of teams this year. We want to play to our strength, which is finesse and passing."
Bench talent is another strength for the Vikings.
"I think we have more depth this year than we've had," said Dunn, in his fourth season as head coach.
Seniors Eli Andrews, Lal Chin, Van Lian and Ahmed Ndiaye, juniors Cin Kim, Kaleb Laws, Omar Rodriguez, Venson Thawng, Lian Tuang and Ken Wheeler and sophomore Chris Thawng provide reserve help.
Lansdowne was supposed to open the season Sept. 2 against Parkville. However, heat-related closures canceled classes and after school activities.
"Officially, we missed two practices because of the heat," Dunn said. "They [Parkville] are an air-conditioned school and they have been practicing the whole time and to go play one of our toughest games would have been an unfair advantage."
Lansdowne opens the regular season Friday, Sept. 9 at Milford Mill.