The Marion Giants’ 2018 boys soccer season was one marred by inconsistency.
When the Giants were on their game, they were effective, moving the ball with ease, playing strong defense, and creating quality scoring chances. But at other times, they struggled mightily and were unable to establish any kind of rhythm.
That inconsistency led to an uneven campaign, as the Giants finished with an 8-7-2 record and were upset by Grant County rival Oak Hill in the first game of the sectional.
Over the summer, the Giants took a hard look in the mirror and decided it was time for a change, taking it upon themselves to improve their game and help bring Marion boys soccer back to prominence.
And Head Coach Jorge Berry took notice right away.
“The work ethic of the kids this summer [has been great,]” Berry said. “This has been what I would call a throwback as far as the kids wanting to play, wanting to practice hard, and wanting to hang out. The kids really like each other, not only on the field but off the field as well. I think that is going to be important for us.”
Along with team bonding, Berry and the Giants got back to the basics. While they worked on dribbling, shooting, and passing, they also focused on controlling the ball and working a lot of possession in order to create offensive opportunities.
“I’ve been really pleased,” Berry said. “They are working extremely hard in practice, and hopefully that will carry over to games. We have some kids that will hopefully be able to score some goals, so we will see what happens.”
Along with improving physically, the Giants’ two captains – senior Isak Lagerkvist and junior JD Fagan – have taken on more of a leadership role, and it has helped to rally the team throughout the offseason.
“A lot [of our success] is due to them,” Berry said. “Isak and JD, they’ve really taken it to task by setting an example for the other kids to follow. So far, the kids are buying into that.”
While the Giants did lose some talented seniors, including Devante Boyd and Mike Rogers, they return most of their offensive firepower from a year ago, including leading scorer Kyle Coryea (10 goals), Brendin Dixon (seven), Lagerkvist (six), Kevin Guy (three), and Fagan (three).
Furthermore, players like Mario Garcia, Joseph Powell, and freshman Alex Powell have impressed Berry throughout the summer workouts, and goalkeeper Malik Smith has made tremendous strides in goal for Marion.
Along with all of these players, the Giants have a few new guys that Berry believes will contribute immediately and consistently during the 2019 season.
“We have two newcomers,” Berry said. “Freshman Zane Smith will start immediately as a defensive midfielder, and we had a young man who has transferred from Muncie Burris – Drew Bartrum – who is a physical player. He can play forward. He can play in the back. It’ll be a lot of fun to see.”
On paper, the Giants have one of the most talented rosters in the area. They have taken the time to hone all areas of their game, and are committed to being a better soccer team in 2019.
“I feel real good about this team,” Berry said. “We want to have a good varsity season, but more importantly, we want to win the sectional. I’m optimistic.”