RANDOLPH — With a new coach and only two returning starters, the Randolph boys soccer team is sure to look much different from the group that made the last two Section 6 championships, winning one.
New head coach David Pihlblad acknowledged the pandemic disrupted his plans to work with the team through his first summer leading the Cardinals.
“I had all these great plans of doing spring and summer soccer with the kids, taking over the program and everything,” Pihlblad said. “I kind of felt helpless with everything going on that I couldn't do anything with them. So I gave them some training stuff to do on their own over the summer about a month before the season started and it was all kind of in their hands. I really didn't know what to expect, I didn't know who was going to show up honestly, day one. But the kids took it upon themselves. I was extremely happy with what I've seen the first two weeks.”
With 18 players on the varsity roster, the team has depth, thanks in part to seven athletes who normally would be playing football this fall.
“We were able to keep some kids down at modified, that probably would have had to come up,” Pihlblad said. “I'm very optimistic. I'm excited that we're able to play, I think the kids are realizing that they have a great opportunity just to even play, so we're just grateful that we have this opportunity to practice every day and have some fun and play some games.”
Pihlblad, a Randolph grad, spent last year as an assistant to former coach Dave Levandowski after coaching Pine Valley for six seasons.
“The last two years they won sectionals and then last year they lost in the finals to Maple Grove, so we lost a ton of experienced guys,” Pihlblad said. “We have only six players that were on the varsity team last year, so we are young and we are inexperienced. But the group, they're really fun to work with, they have great attitudes and I think their inexperience might be a good thing for us because they're just going to go out there and just play. We really have no expectations, so that might be a good thing for us honestly.”
Randolph started the season with a home loss to Portville, 5-0. Kyle Smallback made seven saves in net for the Cardinals.
Before the game, facing just an eight-game regular season consisting of league contests, Pihlblad said his team hoped to go at least .500 and compete for a playoff berth.
“We don't have a single non-league game this year, and with the season as it is, they changed the playoffs so you have to have a .500 record or better,” he said. “From day one, we talked as a team, ‘what do we want to accomplish this year?’ And our seniors, our captains said we want to make the playoffs. That's our first step. Our goal is .500 or better, and if we can make it to the playoffs, anything can happen and we'll just go from there. That's just kind of what we're hoping for this year.”
2020 Randolph boys soccer schedule
(All games 4:30 p.m., unless otherwise indicated)
5 — Portville (L, 5-0)
7 — at Ellicottville, 5:30 p.m.
14 — Gowanda/Pine Valley
19 — at Salamanca/Cattaraugus-Little Valley
21 — at Portville
26 — Ellicottville, 5 p.m.
28 — at Gowanda/Pine Valley
6 — Salamanca/Cattaraugus-Little Valley, 7 p.m.