Cyclones seek to replenish talent, repeat success

By Marvin Birchfield

   The Elizabethton soccer team will try to live up to the challenge from last season, where they made their first-ever appearance in the regional playoffs.
   This year it will be much tougher task, as they graduated a lot of talent and are filled with numerous youngcomers.
   "The big thing is we graduated out 12 seniors, which eight or nine of them were starters, so it's pretty much a brand new team," said Elizabethton coach Bill McClay.
   With a lot of guys that have had limited playing time, it will be an up hill battle for the Cyclones, as they're still unsure of who will be a stand out for them.
   "We're young and most of the starters are freshman and sophomores, so we're still learning to play with each other," said McClay.
   The Cyclones have already obtained success by starting out with a win over David Crockett 3-2, which helps with them with confidence and gives the young guys a hopeful spirit.
   "In the game we won over Crockett, we showed a lot of toughness on the team. We were down twice and came back finally, winning the game late," said McClay.
   A bright spot for this squad is the hard work ethic and attitude they posses, for it's going to take a total team effort with the lack of experience.
   "One thing is that they have a real good attitude and are a great group of kids. They're enthusiastic and I look forward to us being competitive in every match," said McClay.
   When having a team made up of so many young bodies, the one factor that can hinder a part in your group's performance is the size and speed aspect.
   "The big thing is because we're young the size and speed wise against some of the older teams, we might be at a disadvantage, especially large schools like Dobyns-Bennett and Tennessee High," said McClay.
   The Cyclones made it to the regional final in last years play, and this was the best season that Elizabethton has had in its history of soccer.
   "We made it to the regional final last season, which was as good as any team at the high school has ever done," said McClay.
   They might not of had their best season record, but they had never made it that far in the post-season before, which gives the Cyclones some hope of building onto the tradition.
   "Right now we need to figure out who we are and where on the field to put certain players, so we can try to get back to the same spot in the post-season," said McClay.
   As far as some of the guys who might break the mold and lead Elizabethton to fame, one senior who has already made an impact in their first appearance is Gavin McKinney.
   "A guy that scored two goals for us against Crockett the other night is senior Gavin McKinney, and he's one of the players who's had some playing time last season, said McClay.
   Defensively, the Cyclones look to get help from two central defenders with senior Andy Ross and Jeff Alman.
   "I'm really excited about this upcoming season, for we're young but we're playing together and have a lot of potential I feel like," said Ross.
   Ross is one of the few guys who's returning with some experience on the playing field, and his leadership could be vital to the Cyclones newcomers.
   "We don't have as much individual talent as last year, but I think we can make up with it by playing together as a team and the effort we give in games," said Ross.
   Look for a couple of freshmen to make an impact also, as Ryan Gouge and Adam Green will contribute to the success of the Cyclones.
   Another freshman looking to do his part in the Cyclone march to the top is Drew LaPorte.
   "I think it's great in being a freshman and getting the opportunity to come out here and try my hardest," said LaPorte.
   LaPorte says, he has already felt some first-time jitters, but as time goes on he'll surely settle into his role and make the contribution needed.
   "I was nervous in my first game, and I walked out on the field and made a couple of mistakes which made it worse, but getting to start in my first game as a Cyclone was a little intense for me," said LaPorte.
   Expect the Cyclones to produce some players who will make it on the all-conference team and possibly even past that.
   "I think we will place several of players who will be all-conference and maybe even all-district," said McClay.
   The Cyclones still should be pretty stout for the most part, even with the amount of youngsters they possess.
   "Our biggest weak spot will probably be the thing we can't do nothing about. We're not as big as we have been in the past," said McClay.
   Elizabethton will have trouble overpowering other teams starting out, but with the more games they play, then the better they'll become.
   "Experience is something that is going to come along as the season goes on, and that will only get better as the time goes on," said McClay.