|Tyler Petter-McCauley (in red) and Jake Bauman go one-on-one on opening day|
"I think we can compete in both the section and the conference," Buss said. "We are a team with depth at each position and we have a solid group of upperclassmen, so I certainly think we should finish strong."
To meet Buss's high expectations the Tigers will have to fill the holes left by four all-Missota Conference players lost to graduation last spring: high-scoring forwards Cole Landwehr and Brandon Scott Scott, sweeper Sam Leske and keeper Chad Stivers.
Much of that burden will fall on the shoulders of nine returnees from the 2011 team that posted the school's first-ever winning record (8-7-2): seniors forwards Tyler Petter-McCauley, Karid Nokes, and Urive Omana; juniors Jeffrey Hanson (defense), Hunter Meyers (defense), Blake Smith (midfielder/ defense), Eric Stoeckman (defense) and Jared Wolt (midfield/defense) and sophomore Robin DeCastro (midfielder/defense).
Varsity additions expected to make major contributions in 2012 include senior keepers Sam Peterson and Isaac Toenjes; seniors Leslie Adjei (forward,/wing), Jake Bauman (defense/wing) and Mikkel Peterson (defense/wing) and sophomore midfielder Noah Amundson.
Others expected to battle for varsity playing minutes include seniors Connor Phu (forward/wing) and Michael Torgerson (defense); sophomore Joey Herrera (forward/midfielder) and freshmen keepers Jake Agnew and Jesse Buffington.
"One of our strength is a strong senior class," Buss said. "I can look to them for the depth, experience and leadership that a strong program requires. It is obvious these boys have been developing strength and speed during the off-season.
|The long and short of it: Tigers seniors Mikkel Peterson and Connor PHu|
Seniors Peterson and Toenjes figure to split the net duties in the early going with Agnew and Buffington playing at the junior varsity level while waiting in the varsity wings.
Buss is excited about his veteran defensive corps of Meyers, Hanson, Stoeckman and DeCastro.
"They are brutally difficult to get through," he said. "I would expect the oppositon to get less shots on our goal this season."
The Tiger coach added midfielders Wolt and Smith will also play important roles, at times being called upon to play all 90 minutes.
Three-year veteran Petter-McCauley, Nokes, Cochenauer and Omana will be called upon to replace the offensive production of Landwehr and Scott who combined for 32 points last fall.
Buss feels the talent is there for another successful season but noted that to produce on the field the Tigers will have stay on top of two important areas, focus and intensity.
"We'll be fine if we don't lose focus of our goals," he said.
Buss threw down the challenge to his team by picking it to finish atop the Missota Conference ladder, adding Lakeville North, Rochester Mayo and Northfield would provide major challenges in Section 1AA.
Britta Pahl steps in as junior varsity coach this fall with Lindsay Collins handling and ex-Tiger head coach Loren Cartwright handling the B-squad and ninth grade team respectively. The goalie coach is Lowell Peterson. Todd Karich and Al Jenrich coach the middle school teams.
"I think some of our major strengths are the experience, knowledge and ability of this year's coaching staff," Buss said.
The Tigers get their first taste of game action Thursday, Aug. 23, with a non-conference game at Faribault. Saturday they entertain Lakeville North at Tiger Stadium in an 11:00 game.