WATERVLIET — Watervliet players are “just thrilled” about having a boys soccer team. Now they want to make the most of it — both this year and beyond.
“This first year isn’t necessarily about wins and losses,” Watervliet coach Doug Bornas said. “It’s about developing something for next year and the year after. Hopefully we can become the best team we can be.”
The wins and losses have been pretty good so far. Watervliet is 6-4-1 this season after Tuesday’s 10-2 home victory over Buchanan.
One reason the start is so encouraging is the youth of the team.
Nathan Isbrecht led the Panthers on Tuesday with four goals and Brennan Bornas added three. Both players are sophomores, and freshmen Brady Bornas and Abel Villarreal each added a goal and an assist.
“This is a young group of kids that just love to play soccer,” coach Bornas said. “We’re blessed with a number of kids that are soccer players only, they didn’t want to play anything else. To have the opportunity is fantastic.”
Watervliet began its attempts to build a soccer program a few years ago with a middle school team, which included some of the current players. With support from parents and athletic director Ken Dietz, a varsity team was approved by the Watervliet school board in May.
“We had the middle school team, they saw us do really well, and then they put it together and we’re just thrilled,” Brennan Bornas said.
The current sophomore class wasn’t able to play last year. Isbrecht said he played on a fall travel team, but it wasn’t the same.
“That’s just nowhere near as fun as it is playing on a team with my friends, people that I’m with seven hours of the day five times a week,” he said. “I heard we got a high school team, I was just thrilled.”
Watervliet has 21 players on its team this year, an impressive number for a new team. Coach Bornas mentioned juniors Erick Perez-Cruz and Robert Kraklau as key defensive players. Also playing defense is sophomore Andrew Chisek, a basketball and baseball standout.
Many of the players are inexperienced, but that hasn’t stopped them from contributing.
“I think sometimes those players work the hardest,” Isbrecht said. “They’re pushing to get better, they want to play, they want to do this. I think that’s just great for them, to see that mentality.”
Coach Bornas said that finding the right fit for all the players has been a challenge, and there have been growing pains. The Panthers let a three-goal lead slip in a 4-3 loss to Berrien Springs, and were defeated 7-1 by rival Hartford, an established local power.
Despite that, the team likes where it’s at right now.
“We’re very proud of the progress that we’ve made,” Brennan Bornas said. “Obviously coming in we want to win all of our games, but we have to take these losses as experience. All these other teams have had experience, we don’t have that.
“We have a ton of individual talent, we have a ton of team players, we just need to put that together and communicate. That’s the biggest key.”
Brennan added that a district championship is the goal this season. Down the road, the Panthers could have even bigger aspirations.
“We want this not to be a one-year, two-year thing,” coach Bornas said. “We want this to be an eight, 10, 15 or 20-year program that becomes successful.”
Watervliet 10, Buchanan 2
Goals — Watervliet: Nathan Isbrecht 4, Brennan Bornas 3, Brady Bornas, Abel Villarreal, Erick Perez-Cruz. Buchanan: Jake Robles, Logan Grwinski.
Assists — Watervliet: Villarreal, Isbrecht, Brady Bornas, Mason Pennington.
Shots on goal — Watervliet 28, Buchanan 5.
Saves — Zachary Hastings (W) 3, Zach Young (Buc) 18.
Halftime — Watervliet 5-1.
Record — Watervliet 6-4-1.
Contact: bsanders@TheHP.com, 429-1294, @HPBenSanders