Dragons banking on work ethic, experience for improvement

Cam Markley and Chino Roque celebrate a goal in regional action a year ago
Rusty Nixon
Sports Editor

Coming off a string of six straight regional championships, Argos boys soccer coach Todd Van Der Weele entered last season with a young team that might have been expected to just re-build. For the Dragons it was more of a re-load.
Argos ended the year 12-5-3 overall. The even better news for Dragon fans is that team returns relatively intact for 2018.
"We had two starters that we lost to graduation," said Van Der Weele. "Considering where we started (last year) we came a long way. We went undefeated in our conference and won our conference. We were able to get out of our sectional and lost to a very experienced Boone Grove team that eventually won the regional. With what we have coming back I feel real good about where we are now and where we could be by the end of the season."
The team were quick learners, taking some early season speed bumps to a successful end of the year. Van Der Weele credits one big lesson.
"Getting the guys to understand you have to play the entire game," he said. "A couple times last year we had victory in our grasp and let up in the last minute or two and ended up gettting draws in those matches. One was wth 16 seconds, one was with 34 seconds. We had a very, very hard working group last year and I think that maybe some of the things we were lacking we were able to make up for in hard work. Learning from those experiences was key."
That hard work continues to pay dividends into the current season.
"With the work ethic there is also a year of growth in experience and physically," said Van Der Weele. "We have definitely made some strides. There were certain things that I never would have put our team through in our summer matches last year, this year we went up against some pretty stout competition and we've held our own."
The summertime Dragons tested their mettle against some of the state's best - and most physical - teams.
"We played both Northridge and Goshen this summer. We went out and fought," said Van Der Weele. "Both those teams are very strong and we weren't intimidated being out on the field with them. Obviously it was a summer game and not at the intensity it will be in the regular season but we did okay."
"The big question mark from last year was we only scored 34 goals last year and we need to do better than that," said Van Der Weele. "I think with just the experience level alone we ought to be able to do better than that."
"Defensively our entire back four and goalkeeper are back together again this year," he said. "I thought they played very well together last year. We lost Tim Ahlmeyer back there for the whole second half last year getting him back will be big, he will be a four year starter back there."
"What we did last year to come together and accomplish what we did was huge," said Van Der Weele. "We have some younger guys coming in that can really help on attack. They will help us with their passing efficiency and breaking down the defense on the dribble."
"We'd like to improve on our last season. There is always the expectation of getting as far as we can in the tournament. Getting further in this season than we did last is always a goal."