Indian Springs hopes youthful talent and senior leaders can push team farther into playoffs
Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024
By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter
Indian Springs soccer is looking to take more massive steps towards success this year, and the championship identity they carry is as strong as ever.
A year after going 12-12-1 and making it into the first round of the class 6A playoffs, Springs and head coach Rik Tozzi are seeking to meet high expectations, just with a very new roster.
“We got only five [starters] coming back,” Tozzi said. “This will be the youngest team I’ve ever fielded. We’re replacing our goalkeeper, our two center-backs, two of the three starting midfielders and two of the three starting strikers.”
Despite having many fresh faces that are looking to make big contributions on the field, the three seniors that Tozzi has on his squad will help lead in big ways that will create positive momentum. The seniors have made significant impacts, and the whole team understands that.
While the young group knows they have a lot to learn, that does not divert that mindset that Indian Springs soccer has had for years.
“We don’t have a new identity. There’s only a single identity at Springs and that’s championships,” Tozzi said. “If we don’t make Huntsville, it’s a failure, and we make no bones about that and that starts with me. If you choose to be an Indian Springs soccer player, you’re buying into a culture that’s been established over seven years.”
A big part of the identity that Springs takes on comes from establishing a standard during training and preseason practices. This is when the players are able to get a plethora of reps in on top of getting to know who they are playing with.
This year, that time has been confronted with challenges courtesy of the weather and the success of the Indian Springs basketball program. Those obstacles have not given any doubt, though, as to what the game plan will be when coach Tozzi’s squad takes the field.
“I know we’ll be tough to break down,” Tozzi said. “I know we’ll press. I know we will not get outworked, particularly in the last 20 minutes of a game. Beyond that, honestly I’m not hiding anything. We haven’t had enough time on the field with our young kids for me to know.”
Both Tozzi and the team believe that outside of all that, one of their core strengths is that they are unpredictable in how their formations look on the field. Due to that, he is confident that they will be able to get around this wall that the weather has provided.
“I’d like to think one of the marks of our program is we’re very malleable in how we play,” coach Tozzi said. “I’ve got kids that buy in enough that we’re very malleable. That’s one thing I was talking to Carver and Leeds is, not having turf and the weather has really, in combination with the young kids, it set us back in terms of preparation just because we haven’t had time on the ball and time together, but we’ll find a way to fix that as the season goes on.”
One way they will be able to deal with the situation is through the talent that the Indian Springs seniors have, as they pose a lot of threats to the opponents that they will face.
In the eyes of Mason Coleman, something that is seen as a huge contributor in their past success is the team’s chemistry. He believes that will continue to play a huge role in 2024.
“A big part of our team really is the team chemistry, the bond between our team, things we do together,” Coleman said. “I think that really just helps to build up the team mentality and it just helps throughout the season to really maximize our output.”
Dual-sport athlete William Giattina is excited to get back out onto the field, hoping to capitalize on his big aspirations for his final season with Springs.
“It’s a journey with the friends, with my guys, I’m excited for it, and learn a couple of new things and go far,” Giattina said. “I’m trying to bring home a trophy.”
Isaiah Bingham is bringing back some talent on the ball that he has had since he entered the program. What he has gotten out of his time on the squad is much bigger than what the game can truly teach.
“I think that even beyond the skills that you learn from our team, our program is really about building character through hard work, attention to detail and just a good attitude,” Bingham said. “That’s something that we really stress, and so I think at the end of the day, people who are a part of the program come back, and even people who don’t get playing time, they stick around all four years of varsity because they appreciate the lessons that they learned on the team.”
Outside of all that, Bingham understands the magnitude of this season and knows his team has an opportunity to leave a mark.
“I think that area is definitely for the taking this year,” Bingham said. “This year, it’s a little bit more level with some seniors leaving, so I think we definitely want to be competitive and go for state this year like we always do.”
Indian Springs will have a chance to prove itself once again when it takes the field for its season opener at Oneonta on Feb. 6 and at the Lakeshore Shootout on Feb. 9.