A special player or senior class will not define the Maize South boys soccer program.
Following the vision of coach Rey Ramirez, the Mavericks have instead opted to build their brand on a playing style that won league and regional titles last season.
But that was with a senior-laden team, so as Maize South opens its season Tuesday against Goddard, it is in search of proving the system still works. Even with eight new starters.
“We do have a lot of new names, but as far as our team mentality and our system of play goes, it’s all going to be pretty consistent with last year,” Ramirez said. “We have a pretty structured way of playing and how we want to move the ball up the field, so it’s just a matter of getting the boys to be fast and be quick about it.”
Maize South’s 4-3-3 formation is typical, but what it does in it is anything but. The two centerbacks push up, allowing midfielders such as junior Adrien Emanuel to track even higher up the field to create a numbers advantage in the middle of the field.
While that typically has the opposition scrambling to fortify its central defense, Maize South shoots its other two defenders, effectively turning them into wingbacks, up the sidelines. Combined with the team’s proclivity to triangle passing, it became a lethal attack last season.
But even Ramirez admits duplicating that will be difficult with so many newcomers.
“We worked on it with them on JV last year, but obviously varsity is a lot faster,” Ramirez said. “A lot of kids are assuming new roles. They’re learning where to move and when. They’re learning what’s expected of them, as far as tactically where they’re supposed to be when we’re going forward and moving back defending.”
Any serious concerns have been suppressed, largely due to the return of Bailey Benter, a senior goalkeeper who is among the best in the state at his job.
Even better, Maize South also has Nate Hendricks right in front of Benter as a centerback, a crucial position. Not only does he have the responsibility of anchoring a young back line, but Hendricks will be trusted to generate the attack from the back.
“I’m going to have to be the key communicator and make it all run smooth,” Hendricks said. “We’re going to have to make sure we’re talking and getting passes to feet and moving off the ball.”
The complexity of the system may lead to inconsistent play in the beginning, but that is a small price to pay for the end result. And the Mavericks believe that to be the same every season, regardless of their starting lineup.
“We have the same expectations that we did last year,” Benter said. “I’m not too worried about (the youth). We’re still planning on being regional champs and hopefully making it to state this year.”