Since Adam Hallis took the reins of the Eastbrook boys soccer program at its inception seven years ago, the Panthers have grown into not just one of the best teams in the area, but one of the best in the whole state.
And the 2018 season was no exception.
Behind a tremendous group of senior leadership at multiple positions, the Panthers finished with a 13-2 record, averaging 3.2 goals per match and allowing just 10 goals all season – four of which came in their final game against Leo.
For the first time in a number of seasons, the Panthers will have a whole different look. In all, Eastbrook graduated 10 seniors, including goalkeeper Jacob Huber, midfielders Zane Shilts, Noah Ross, and Andrew Siegelin, all of whom were captains, and defenders Conner Raikes and Luke Abston.
While all of those players were paramount to Eastbrook’s success, Hallis has built the Panthers’ program into a winning one, regardless of who is on the field.
And with a plethora of talent returning, all of whom are well-versed in the culture of Eastbrook soccer, the Panthers look to have another strong campaign.
Throughout the offseason, Hallis and the Panthers have focused on team bonding, working to mesh with one another and find that chemistry that has made past Eastbrook teams a force to be reckoned with.
“We have guys ready to step up,” Hallis said. “We just have to see how they’ll step up and how they work together. Some of the guys are figuring out new positions. They’ve been hanging out, getting work done, and building that chemistry.”
Eastbrook plays a simple, but effective game – run the offense through the midfield while playing lockdown defense on the back end. All of Eastbrook’s returners understand Hallis’ system, and because of that, there has been minimal tweaking to the overall gameplan.
“It always goes back to the style we play,” Hallis said. “It’s nice that with the guys coming back, I can keep that style for the most part. It’s been a lot of fun to go through and see the new puzzle and how the pieces fit.
“I’ve got guys who can play multiple positions. I’ve got some really good guys who are fighting for positions with guys who played a lot last year. It goes back to chemistry. What is the best working 11 on the field, and in what position? I have a lot of good pieces to work with.”
Overall, Hallis has been pleased with his team’s progress over the summer.
“It’s always an adjustment with every new team, but these guys, they understand that in our short [history,] traditions have been established,” Hallis said. “They are ready to step in and pick up their places, [while they] bring the younger guys along and teach them what Eastbrook soccer is about.”
With the return of leading scorer Collin Burman, who finished with 13 goals last season, and the continued growth of players like Sam Spiegal, Bryan Popoca, and Elijah Shutt, the Eastbrook offense should suffer no setbacks in 2019. Ramzzy Bowser, who really grew as a defender last year, also returns together with Nathan Brainer, Andrew Bruner, and Simon Manwell, who has really taken his game to another level, according to Hallis.
“He played some JV for us last year, but he has stepped into his own all summer,” Hallis said. “He’s playing well for us right now. He’s a really vocal leader out there for us. He brings everybody together. He’s worked hard, and the guys are impressed by that.”
While the Panthers have worked tirelessly at honing their craft, they also enjoy the game of soccer. Despite the roster turnover, Hallis likes the makeup of his group, and likes their chances for continued success in 2019.
“We have a good team,” Hallis said. “As we get the chemistry down, we are going to play well. These guys just want to play good soccer. They want to go out there, they want to compete, and I think they know that if they do that, the rest will take care of itself. They want to play the game well. That’s what they shoot for.
“It’s Eastbrook soccer, and we’ve got the style that we like. I expect us to play our game, I expect us to play good looking soccer, and I want to be competing at the end of the year for sectional championships and things like that. Every expectation we’ve always had is still there. It’s going to be fun to see these guys grow into their positions and grow into representing Eastbrook.”