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August 20, 2014

Loss of 10 starters doesn’t deter Heugh’s thoughts on 2014 team, season

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

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Zac Ayotte (18) battles for the ball during a scrimmage against Lake Orion. Athens is looking to build off of its 20-win season from a year ago.

TROY — When the only loss of the season comes in the state playoffs, there’s plenty of reason to carry a grudge into the following fall.

But when 10 guys who started in that loss are no longer high school-eligible, how much of a chip can one’s shoulder really have?

That’s the challenge for Todd Heugh and his 2014 Troy Athens soccer team.

Following a 20-1-0 season in 2013, Heugh and the Red Hawks are back with just one starter but with a whole bunch of guys looking to pick up where last year left off.

“Very confident we will be a very competitive team,” Heugh said. “We had a very deep roster last year, and we had a lot of guys get a lot of good minutes. We carefully selected our reserve players in an attempt to groom them for this year and the next few years.”

The hope is that planning pays off.

Athens won the Oakland Activities Association Red Division with a 6-0-0 record last year, and was 20-0-0 entering a district final against Utica High, an eventual 3-2 loss in double overtime.

Heugh said the goals, much like last year, haven’t changed.

“A lot of the guys on this team experienced what it was like to be 20-1,” he said. “Hopefully, they still have that sour taste. At the same time, hopefully they still realize how difficult it was for that team to be that successful. But this is a team that expects to contend for the Red, win a district and see where we can go from there.”

The task is easier said than done.

Senior Prab Bhatti is the lone returning starter.

Athens has to replace its entire midfield and front end, “and just about everyone else,” Heugh said.

But he is trying not to put too much stock in so-called starters that are, or are not, back.

Last year’s team was so dominant at times, he explained, plenty of reserves ended up seeing plenty of time.

“The key for us is taking care of the ball,” Heugh said. “And we have the skill to do that. We will have to find ways to score goals. We may actually be faster on top than last year’s team, and the hope is that translates to more goals.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.