The way Bryan Sabato sees it the 2010-11 boys soccer season is a chance to return to coaching a team game at Mountain Pointe.
A coach has to make the most of his roster's talents, and last season the Pride had two dominant players. It led to 16 wins, an East Valley Region title and a state quarterfinal appearance, but at times it meant most of the team took a secondary role.
Those two players - Ricardo Ardon (18 goals, 12 assists) and Brandon Hansen (16 goals, 5 assists) - were responsible for 34 of the team's 51 goals scored last season but were lost to graduation.
This year Mountain Pointe will rely more on the entire roster getting involved while goalie Kevin Kadisak, once he returns from the football team, will be a steadying force in the net.
"Our biggest issue will be scoring goals," Sabato said. "The potential is there, and guys will have a chance to step in and shine. Unlike years past, we don't have that one star, and this year is more of a collective whole working together instead of relying on one or two guys to bail us out."
The Pride will be strong down the middle of the field and in the back but will need to find a way to get better attacking up front.
The top seniors are center backs Lucas Martinez and Ryan Leach with senior center midfielder Shawn Groves and Kadisak also being counted on heavily until some of the other players gain experience.
"Grade-wise we have a lot of seniors, but experience-wise we are still kind of immature," Sabato said. "We have a good core and are solid in all of the right places. We have a good goal-keeping situation; we have our two center backs and center midfielders return."
The Thunder, which lost to the Pride in the first round of state on penalty kicks last season, return the top three point scorers from last season and the top two goalies, but not much else as far as the size of the roster goes.
Coach Michael Rabasca, who has led the Thunder to four finals and three championships since 2002, has only 16 players on the team this season, but one of them is senior midfielder/forward Brian Piotrowsky, who had nine goals and four assists last season.
He has a nose for the goal and should be even harder to stop this season.
Piotrowsky will be backed by MacKenzie Paquette (5 goals) and Cesar Sandoval (3 goals, 3 assists) with Nolan Power (1.10 goals against with 120 saves) and Chris Gosselin (1.64 and 23 saves) expected back in the goal.
Horizon Honors is ushering in a new era with first-year coach Kevin Durke, who has spent time as an assistant coach at Mesa Community College after his playing career at Incarnate Word, a NAIA in San Antonio, came to an end.
Durke took the team down to Benson for a couple of days for bonding and practice time. It gave everyone a chance to get to know each other a little better.
"I think it is essential that we get on the same page from the start," he said. "The weekend went better than I expected, and it gave us to get a better feel for each other."
Durke, who has a possession-minded philosophy, has close to 20 players on the roster, including 12 or so core players who will be heavily counted on to compete in the tough Class 2A Metro Region.
Top players should be Bryan Sangston, a senior center back, senior goalkeeper Dylan Edmundson and junior wing Shota Austin.