This season, however, has been a new experience for the ninth-year coach.
“Every year there is some turnover, but this year, there are so many new faces,” Hartsell said.
Patterson lost 10 varsity players from last year’s team. Seniors Adrian Ramirez (defenseman), Jose Guerrero (defenseman) and Kiki Gonzalez (midfielder) are the lone returning athletes on a roster of 18 who saw quality minutes a season ago.
“This is kind of a rebuilding year for the team,” Hartsell said. “We’re going to predominantly be sophomores and juniors. But there’s a lot of good, young talent here. We’ll be very competitive.”
The Tigers went down swinging in 2011.
Trying to stay alive in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV postseason race, Patterson did its part in October with a 4-1 win against Modesto’s Central Catholic High.
But Patterson needed Ceres High to lose its regular-season finale to crosstown rival Central Valley High that same day to gain a chance at a playoff berth.
Instead, Ceres won, 2-1, to clinch second place in the WAC and advance into the Division IV playoffs, ending Patterson’s campaign.
Veteran players on that Patterson squad had talent and varsity experience, smoothly linking passes through the midfield to speedy forwards who converted an abundance of scoring opportunities.
Among the team’s stars were Rajaee Delane (forward, midfielder), Edgar Murrillo (forward, midfielder) and Emmanuel Sotelo (defenseman).
“Usually, when I show up (in the fall), I pretty much know what I am going to have,” Hartsell said. “This year is different. We are doing some re-teaching of some skills and getting some of the guys to understand how we do things at the varsity level.”
The coach opted to carry just 18 players on his roster, keeping only the most talented and most skilled athletes. Despite a lack of varsity game experience among them, he still has hopes for a successful campaign.
“It can be intimidating for the guys who are playing varsity soccer for the first time,” Hartsell said. “But I think that, mentally and physically, these players have got it. They’re ready to make the most of their varsity experience.”
The junior varsity team won the Western Athletic Conference last fall, and some of those players are expected to contribute to the varsity squad.
“I’m looking for hard workers,” Hartsell said. “I want players who want to be here, who work to be here. I want players who are going to push themselves and each other.”
The Tigers typically play a possession-oriented formation that emphasizes speedy strikers and a deft touch on the ball.
Hartsell said his focus had been on conditioning and fitness during the first two weeks of team practice.
“We’re running the players for the first 1½ hours of practice,” he said. “After that, I’m evaluating ball skills during scrimmages and game situations.”
Hartsell said he was looking forward to piecing together another winning season.
“It’s going to be a growing process for the start of the season,” Hartsell said. “My expectation is that within a short period of time, they will be performing at a high level.”
The Tigers begin competition Aug. 24 at the Pitman High Tournament in Turlock.
Contact Marc Aceves at 892-6187, ext. 28, or email@example.com. At a glance
•COACH: Greg Hartsell, ninth season
•LAST YEAR: 8-4 Western Athletic Conference (fourth place)
•KEY LOSSES: Rajaee Delane, Edgar Murrillo, Emmanuel Sotelo
•KEY RETURNERS: Adrian Ramirez, Jose Guerrero, Kiki Gonzalez
•TOP NEWCOMERS: Marcos Melendez, Wilver Barajas, Jose Morales, Osvaldo Barbosa