Chelsea sets sights on playoffs with tough schedule ahead

Published 1:58 pm Friday, February 2, 2024

By TYLER RALEY | Special to the Reporter

The Chelsea Hornets are looking to create some noise in the state this year with hopes of improving off of last season and advancing farther in the playoffs.

After a year in which they made it to the playoffs with a 16-7-2 record, longtime head coach Lee Miller is entering his 17th year at Chelsea with a lot of positivity for what his team can do.

“We’re really optimistic,” Miller said. “We think we have a great team. We feel like we’ve got an old team, an experienced team and a team that kind of put itself in a spot last year to take a step, and then now we hope to take the next step.”

As part of that next step, Miller wants to make sure that the players know that it’s on them to push themselves forward and perform to the best of their capabilities, even if it is a daunting challenge.

He believes that his team has what it takes to rally everyone together and hold themselves up to the Chelsea standard.

“I feel like I’m tough on them, but it’s not me driving the train,” Miller said. “This is their team. I don’t get to play. I can only advise them in areas to help them succeed. I think that’s where we are. That’s where I am as a coach in my career and I think these players have responded really well to that.”

Part of that success comes from being able to switch up the game plan easily in the middle of the game if need be. This strength worked well for the Hornets last year in games where they needed it most, and Miller is very grateful that his team can adjust so well.

“I always use the word adaptable because I don’t want to lock us into something,” Miller said. “The coaches are so good nowadays that you get good at something and they’ll take it away from you, and so then you have to be able to adapt to that and be good at something else.”

“We feel like we’re able to do a lot of different things and we have a fairly sophisticated group that understands how to change tactics,” Miller said. “This is a blessing to have a group that can do that.”

While that leads to success, it is only part of what Chelsea knows it has to do in order to win games down the stretch.

For senior midfielder Kaleb Bass, he knows that after last season, confidence needs to be a constant for everyone.

“We need to come into every game wanting to win,” Bass said. “I feel like last year when we didn’t play necessary area games, we kind of slacked off, and I feel like that affected us when it actually came time for area games.”

Senior goalkeeper Brock Marlow believes the same thing. He knows that when it comes down to it, the competition will be fierce, and that it’s all about fighting down the stretch.

“I think it has to go back to the whole idea of believing,” Marlow said. “You have to understand that some days you’re going to be the better team, some days you’re not, and you’re going to have to dig out a win sometimes and sometimes it comes easy. It has to do with like what (Bass) said, your mentality and that you have to believe in yourself.”

Marlow has a strong belief in what his team can do this season, and that includes winning against strong opponents. He knows that they can push those teams to the limit, one of them being county rival Oak Mountain.

“When you lose to them three times in a row and it’s your last season, it’s kind of like, ‘It’s time,’” Marlow said. “It not only means a lot to the team, it’d mean a lot to me. Where I live, I had the chance to go to Oak Mountain. I decided to stay because I believed in the team, and I think it’s definitely possible this season.”

The team is also hoping to take back its rivalry trophy that is in the hands of Pelham right now after Chelsea had it for two years. That game is easily one that means a lot to them.

While they are big goals, it does not overshadow the goals that the players have set for themselves as the season nears.

For sophomore Luke Miller, it’s all about preparing himself for his future as a leader.

“I want to set up to be in a good spot to make another run next year,” Luke Miller said. “Whether we win a state championship or don’t make the playoffs this year, I want to build and develop our team to probably takeover the torch from these two guys next year and be the leader of this team and the driving force to go make something happen in the next two years.”

Marlow also mentioned that he wants to go out and make history, as Chelsea has never won a men’s team championship. He knows it would be the ultimate mark on his career if he graduated with that accolade.

Coach Miller knows that Luke Miller, along with the rest of this senior class, have been very special. He wants them to go out knowing they had an amazing run in this program.