Glenelg Country School boys soccer coach Sandy Bishop admits this season's varsity schedule, which includes Park School and Arlington Baptist, might be the most challenging in his four years of running the Dragons' program.
Two factors that will help Glenelg Country combat the step up in competition are experience and a favorable home schedule.
Seven is the significant number for Glenelg Country: Seven starters return from last season's 2-7-3 team and seven of the Dragons' 10 games will be played at home, including the season opener against Arlington Baptist on Sept. 28.
"Playing 70 percent of our games at home could be a real bonus this year because I think we have one of the best field surfaces of the schools we play," said Bishop.
Glenelg Country is an independent team with a small-school pool of 40 to 50 boys on campus,which makes Bishop's roster of 23 players an impressive in-school recruiting achievement.
"We've gotten some students that transferred for academic reasons from the public high schools and that helped us immediately because of their experience with the Columbia Soccer Association," Bishop said.
Leading the Dragons will be goalie Risto Washington. The 5-foot-10 junior started most of the games last year and brings a winning attitude with him that Bishop hopes will rub off on his teammates.
"I'm looking for big things from Risto this year because he is so mature and is always ready to go hard, be it a game or practice," Bishop said.
Washington will receive plenty of defensive support. Senior sweeper Nikat Mody returns for his third varsity season to anchor the Dragons' back line.
If the Dragons have a weakness, Bishop said it might be the lack of a dominant scorer.
"There are no 10- or 15-goal scorers on this team," said Bishop. "We'll have to rely more on experience to make for a much better record this year. Since we have no league title to play for, our No. 1 goal is to go undefeated or at least achieve a winning record."
Bishop expects two halfbacks, junior Chris Lindenau and sophomore Justin Dean, to be the Dragons' top scoring threats.
Bishop said Lindenau is an aggressive tackler with improved field vision and a strong shot on goal, and Dean has great stamina to finish a game strongly.
Directing the Dragons' offensive attack is junior forward Scott Zimmerly, who Bishop labeled "the team quarterback" because of his passing skills and knack for setting up teammates for goals.