Graduation took its toll on several local boys soccer teams, but few coaches are calling this a rebuilding season.
The Northville Falcons advanced to the Section II Class D title game before coming up on the short end of the 2-1 score against Fort Ann.
The Western Athletic Conference Northern Division champions lost nine players to graduation, including Class D Keeper of the Year and WAC North MVP Tim Monette and WAC first team all-stars Kalob Russell, Nick Jonas and Dave Onzo.
Gloversville’s Thomas Kirk (15) saves the ball on the end line after being challenged by Glens Falls defender Mike Basford during a Foothills Council game at Gloversville High School on Oct. 8, 2013. Kirk, a senior, was named a first-team Foothills Council all-star last season as a junior. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)
"Northville's success this season will weigh heavily on how the experience of the returning players can help raise the level of the many new faces taking the pitch for the Falcons this season," Northville coach Steve Clapper said.
That experience will include Danny Reidell, who netted 11 goals last season; Will Wilson, who had 10 goals; and Wolfgang Reinke, who netted eight along with Brandon Blowers and Dan Ryan.
The Broadalbin-Perth Patriots also were hit hard by graduation as 12 seniors graduated leaving four returnees - Ryan Dingman, Claudio Mastrocinque, Cameron Monks and Jordan Holik - with varsity experience.
However, the majority of the 18 new faces on the squad come up from an undefeated junior varsity squad that outscored its opponents 77-7 and had 10 shutouts.
"The varsity team will have an all-new look this season with the addition of 18 new players," Patriots coach Brian Henry said. "We are young with very little varsity experience, but these guys understand what it means to be a good teammate, have a good work ethic and enjoy the game, win or lose."
The Mayfield Panthers lost nine players to graduation, but have a solid core of returning veterans their leading scorer and three-year varsity player Todd Briggs, who notched 21 goals last season along with Riley Yager and Jack Albertin, who had seven and six assists apiece.
"The practices are competitive and the boys are working toward accomplishing their team goals," Panthers' coach Jon Caraco said. "The newcomers and young players are challenging for playing time and it has created a very competitive environment at practice."
One team that wasn't hit hard by graduation was the Oppenheim-Ephratah/St. Johnsville Wolves.
The Wolfpack was upset by Germantown early in the Class D postseason tournament, but show 15 players, eight of which are seniors, returning with varsity experience.
"After not graduating any players from last season, we are looking to compete even more this season," OESJ coach Travis Heiser said. "Our numbers are great and we have been working hard to build a program. As a team our goal is to have consistent play throughout the season and only worry about what we can control, which is our team and not our opponent."
The Wolfpack also have another daunting task in front of them as they make the jump out of Class D to Class C for postseason play.
After posting a 4-12 record last year, the Fort Plain Hilltoppers return eight players with plenty of varsity experience as well as a group of younger players who came up with limited time on the pitch.
Second-year coach Matt Heiser will look for first-team all-star Kiernan Briggs and seven-goal scorer Aiden VanLoan, both seniors, to lead a junior-dominated roster this season.
"I am looking forward to a very successful season," Heiser said. "I believe we will be a force in the league. The team is motivated and very competitive."
The Canajoharie Cougars pulled an opening round upset in the Class C sectionals last year, topping Mekeel Christian on penalty kicks to win their first postseason game in several seasons.
Coach Blake Smith is looking for his defense to remain solid this season, with starting goalkeeper Sam May returning to anchor the squad as they work to build an offensive force.
The Amsterdam Rams have played non-league matches against Gloversville, Johnstown and Broadalbin in the past. Now it will be for the Foothills Council Southern Division championship.
Amsterdam's move to the Foothills Council from the defunct Big 10 will be met head-on with a pair of returning starters, along with some highly talented newcomers.
"With a new league and all new teams, anything can happen," Rams' coach Adam Fetterly said.
The Rams played and were defeated by the fifth member of the Foothills South, Scotia-Glenville, in the opening round of the Class A sectionals last season.
The Gloversville Dragons lost seven players to graduation, but will build its squad around four-year varsity player and Foothills Council all-star Thomas Kirk, along with returners Cameron Stewart, Josh Young and Matt Smrtic.
"The players have worked hard to get ready," Coach Paul Ligon said. "We have extremely low numbers and experience this year. We will have to see how quickly our younger players adapt to the competitive Foothills Council."
The Johnstown Sir Bills will head into the battle for the Foothills crown with one senior, Jon Heroth, on their roster.
The Mike Hill-coached squad returns Heroth, Devin Boyle, Austin Heroth, Jon Bearden and Steve Camarra to the pitch after losing six players, including all-star goalkeeper Andy Camarra, to graduation.
"We are very young but hope to be competitive and get stronger as the year goes on," Hill said.
A large turnout of newcomers and experienced players will help the Fonda-Fultonville Braves as they battle in the highly competitive ranks of the Colonial Council.
"We have a solid group of returners and the newer players seem to be picking things up quickly," coach Matt Bloom said. "The key right now is improvement."
The Wells Indians lost seven starters to graduation from a squad that went 12-2 before falling in the Section VII Class D semifinals to Elizabethtown.
However, coach Don Beach is confident that there will not be a big let down as his team battles for the Northern Soccer League Division III title.
"I have been impressed with our young players," Beach said. "I think we will have a decent team and will provide a hard challenge for the rest of the league."
The Indians will be led by seniors Dave Foster, Adrian Collado and Tyler Peck.