Originally Published: November 28, 2005 4 a.m.
Returning just three starters from last year's regular-season region runner-up squad, the Prescott High School boys soccer team could be labeled as a program in the rebuilding phase.
Although the Badgers' varsity inexperience dominates the roster, head coach Shean Hilton believes his team can achieve success this season in the 4A-I Wells Fargo Region.
"We have fairly good depth, we return nine players off last year's squad," said Hilton, adding later that three of those nine were starters in 2004-05. "A number of those players got quite a bit of experience last year playing. Technically speaking, we're really just as good as last year, the only difference is a lack of match experience at this point."
Prescott would love to get another shot at Cactus, the team that knocked the Badgers out of the region playoffs last year in a 1-0 game.
"We have a little unfinished business with Cactus, I think," Hilton said. "It's something we circled on the schedule."
Cactus went on to the Class 4A State championship game, where the Cobras lost to Sabino, 1-0.
Hilton will have two strikers back who started a year ago Joe Carillo and Nate Shroyer. The third returnee is Jose Bajo-Niebla, a left winger.
"We are a possession-oriented team. In fact, this year we're going to focus more on the attack, we'll get after people," Hilton said of his squad's style of play. "We have quite a bit of speed and the chemistry has been fantastic."
Other top players heading in include sweeper Adam Yoder and attacker Dallas Rusch-Michener. Hilton said that while the "spine" of his team is extremely strong, he does need to fill the outside positions.
"I feel fairly confident that we'll do well, barring any injuries," he said. "We're just trying to stay under the radar the best we can."
Prescott finished tied for first during last year's regular season but entered regionals at the No. 2 seed after coming up short on a tiebreaker with Pinnacle. Hilton lists Cactus, Prescott and Moon Valley as the region's top three, although he added that he did not want to underestimate Apollo.
"It could come down to Cactus vs. Prescott for the region championship," Hilton said. "We have a chance to set ourselves up to win the region."
The season opens this week with the third annual Alliance Tournament, hosted by both PHS and Bradshaw Mountain. Opponents in the Badgers' pool includes Sinagua, Tempe and Coronado. The tourney runs Tuesday through Thursday and after a day off, concludes Saturday with championship round games at Ken Lindley Field.
The Badgers will also head to the Louisiana Showcase for a second straight year. Region action gets started after the new year on Jan. 5 against Greenway.