B-UHS prepares on the pitch

The Inter-Mountain photos by Tony Baisi The Buckhannon-Upshur High School boys soccer squad includes 31 players this year, including five seniors and nine juniors.

TENNERTON — Last season ended for Buckhannon-Upshur High School’s boys soccer squad a little earlier than the program is accustomed to after falling, 2-1, in the first round of sectional play against fellow Class AAA foe Morgantown High.

Head coach Mike Donato is beginning his ninth season at the helm, and said the Buccaneers again have good numbers to help sort things out after the team posted a 9-10-2 record in 2016.

“We have 31 players between our varsity and JV teams this year,” he said. “That includes five seniors, nine juniors, seven sophomores and 10 freshmen. In that group, there are four foreign-exchange students.”

Junior Alek Seech is a two-sport athlete in the fall, with soccer as his primary approach, and working the kicker position for the Bucs football team on Friday nights.

“One of the players that we look to have a big impact on our team this season is Alek Seech,” Donato said. “We are looking to play him in a more forward position and contribute more on the attacking side of the pitch. He came into camp this summer at the start of practices with a great attitude and has really stepped up with his dynamic play.

The squad has been practicing in preparation for their first game of the season Saturday at Ripley. The Bucs’ home opener will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday against the visiting Morgantown High School Mohigans.

“Another player that has had a big impact in practice so far has been Joel Prats-Casada,” he said. “Joel is one of our exchange students that comes to us from Spain. He’s a very talented midfielder whose love for the game has been contagious. We’ve also had a handful of younger players surprise us throughout practice, including a talented freshman class.”

Donato blew the whistle at a recent practice session after a player said he didn’t know the ball was going to be passed to him. He took advantage of the teachable moment and fired off a soccer coach’s sermon on the importance of just one goal’s difference in a contest’s final result.

“The biggest thing we looked to improve on this offseason, and have been working on so far has been increasing our time in the offensive third,” he said. “Shots on goal, and goals scored. As coaches, we looked at areas we needed to improve in and pinpointed our offensive output. We looked at some of the things that we were doing a few years ago when we led the state in goals per game, and looked to see if we could implement a similar system with the personnel we have available,” Donato said. “So far, we’ve looked at a few different combinations across the pitch and believe we’re seeing progress towards that goal.”

Buckhannon-Upshur will open the WVSSAC slate on the road at Ripley Saturday. The Bucs’ home opener will be at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday with a much anticipated match against the visiting Morgantown High School Mohigans in AAA matters on the pitch