Thompson looks to push into playoffs in 2024

Published 8:08 pm Tuesday, January 30, 2024

By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter

Thompson soccer is looking to make strides in the state this season, and the Warriors believe that the improved fitness of their team will help them do just that.

After going 11-12-1 last year and missing the state playoffs, head coach Dan DeMasters believes that the mindset of his team is already heading in a positive direction even though the season has not begun.

“We have confidence. I think this year’s team, the culture is already light years ahead,” DeMasters said.  “We had a little bit of a higher level weightlifting and conditioning program guy come in to kind of work with them, so they’re looking bigger, faster and stronger, which is nice. But also they were with each other more in the fall, so I think that will help us out.”

That team chemistry has come from a lineup that contains a mixture of players in terms of experience. With multiple veteran athletes on the pitch to go along with some newer faces, DeMasters likes the lineup that he has fielded for this season.

“We have a younger goalie this year who it’s her first year,” DeMasters said. “Seniors in the back is going to be sort of a nice staple for us, and we have a youthful midfield in attack for us. So, it’s a nice little blend of ingredients.”

The backline of seniors in Ashya Brown, Sam Cabiness and Shea Eichelberger is a key portion for a team who is stout defensively. Now that they are in their final year of playing with the Warriors, DeMasters wants to utilize his leaders to their maximum potential.

He believes that his defense will be very structured, which will hopefully create great opportunities for the squad on the offensive end.

“I’m a very defensive coach,” DeMasters said. “We’re just going to be very organized and structured defensively. There’s a way that we attack, we have a certain style in which we attack. There’s a lot of freedom that comes along with the attack because I think if you make it too structured and robotic, it’s just not going to be fun for them.”

A big portion of what the Warriors are focusing on with this game plan is intentionality, which they hope will make them a tough out against their opponents.

So, what else will make Thompson a tough out this year? Their depth and speed.

The Warriors are adding plenty of new faces to their midfield, including the ECNL experience from freshmen Nathalie Gonzalez and Charli Gantt, who are showing plenty of talent in the preseason. They also return the veteran sisters of Dia and Luna Montiel-Duenas who are both skilled in all facets of the game.

DeMasters feels that even outside of those four players, they have a great set of backup plans, which is something that the Warriors have not seen as of late.

“We probably for the first time have depth that we haven’t had in the past,” DeMasters said. “We just have somebody where in the past it was like ‘I got one, maybe two,’ I’ve got like three, four and even a fifth that I feel comfortable if God forbid something happens.”

The talent that Thompson possesses has the squad optimistic about what this year can bring. For players like Brown, a Faulkner University commit, she has high hopes for what her team can do both on and off the field.

“I definitely hope that we really bond with each other and we really click together as a team and work well together,” Brown said. “And obviously, make it to the playoffs and hopefully maybe make it to the state championship.

In Cabiness’ eyes, she has the same playoff aspirations for her senior year. She believes that with all of the depth and youth on this team, the Warriors can go places.

“I really think this year, we do have a lot of young talent, but we do have talent,” Cabiness said. “I think as long as we play how we know how to play and connect our passes, we can really accomplish a lot this year.”

As for Eichelberger, she looks for there to be a change in mindset with the players that Thompson has, knowing that they will play confidently and have a sense of unity.

“I think that this year our big goal is to play composed and not get anxious,” Eichelberger said. “We would lose the ball and just play too direct. I think those are the main ones. Like Ashya said, bring the whole team together because in the years past our senior class has kind of been a little bit on their own island. But this year, specifically, the seniors this year are working to bring everyone in together.”

Thompson will have its opportunity to showcase its improved fitness and depth when it takes the field for its season opener at Chelsea on Feb. 2, and in its home opener against Briarwood on Feb. 6.