There were signs things had gotten better for the Denison boys soccer team. The problem was that the improvement wasn’t able translate into victories when the matches mattered the most.
Finding the right mix to produce the timely results have been the focus since last off-season, especially since a large group of senior starters needs to be replaced and there are just five returning varsity members.
“Filling those spots around them, taking what we’ve coached and applying it,” Denison head coach Scotty Voight said. “We’ve got a group of sophomores and freshmen heading in the right direction.”
The Yellow Jackets will see where they stand as the year begins and how it can get them where they want to be by the end of the schedule as Denison opens the season by hosting Melissa for a non-district match tonight at 7:15 p.m. at Munson Stadium.
“They’re ready to play, get the season going,” Voight said. “There’s definitely expectation coming in. I’m looking forward to the season.”
Later this week the Jackets will host their annual tournament and play Dumas at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Borger at 3 p.m. on Friday and Bonham at 1 p.m. on Saturday.
“Those are some really good sides for us to play. We’re looking forward to playing those guys,” Voight said. “Once we get out and see how things go, we’ll roll into district and see where we’re at.”
Denison started last season with a strong couple of weeks but was unable to maintain that level of play once district began. The Jackets were sitting at 5-2-2 in non-district action before going 0-12-2 with ties against Sherman and Lovejoy to end the year.
It all added up to a 5-14-4 record that was an improvement over 2015 but not where the program wants to be in a return to the playoffs after back-to-back appearances in 2013-14.
“I don’t know if you say it’s frustrating but things happen,” Voight said. You have situations and adversity.”
Senior David Sauceda, who was the top returning scorer going into his junior year, is out with the foot injury suffered in the regular season football finale against Sherman. The forwards being counted on to produce up top are senior Aaron Suarez and junior Gonzalo Rodriguez as well as spot duty by freshman Celso Longoria.
In the midfield, honorable mention all-district choice Aaron Ruiz and Daniel Green led a group of departed Jackets. Senior Devin Perez, junior Jared Banda and sophomore Andres Menjivar are back and joined by Spanish exchange student Alvaro Puga-Noreiga, juniors Nathan Garcia and Martin Leon, sophomore Josue Zamora and Longoria.
The defense received a complete overhaul as Harrison Talley, who was second-team all-district as a senior, Erick Zamora, honorable mention all-district pick Zachary Morrison and Levi Deatherage all graduated and junior Austin Emery did not return after the shoulder injury he suffered during football season.
Senior Shane Roberts and junior Luke Altnether will move to centerback and lead the group.
“Both those guys are strong and we’re confident in what they can do for us,” Voight said.
Rounding out the unit is senior Alex Santiago and juniors Gustavo Jimenez, Griffin Wagner and Efrain Sauceda.
Senior Osvaldo Delarosa will serve as the starting keeper after a battle with sophomore Kevin Roblero-Perez to earn the spot after the graduation of two-year starter Liam Sartor, who was a first-team all-district selection.
“He’s really come on and does some really good things, solidified the back line for us,” Voight said.
In addition to non-district matches against Melissa, North Lamar and Princeton, the Jackets will also compete in the Birdville Tournament before starting District 5-5A action on January 27. Realignment has put Denison in Region I along with holdover Sherman and newcomers Wichita Falls, Wichita Falls Rider, Denton, Denton Ryan and first-year program Denton Braswell.