Despite the loss of a franchise player and a solid supporting cast, the Washington boys soccer team is not lowering expectations in 2010.



“I feel we have what it takes to compete again, not only in the conference, but in the area,” WCHS head coach Jeff Brooks said.



The Panthers were 13-6-3 last season, the program’s most wins since ’00, and finished third in the Mid-Illini with a 7-3-2 mark.


Despite the loss of a franchise player and a solid supporting cast, the Washington boys soccer team is not lowering expectations in 2010.

“I feel we have what it takes to compete again, not only in the conference, but in the area,” WCHS head coach Jeff Brooks said.

The Panthers were 13-6-3 last season, the program’s most wins since ’00, and finished third in the Mid-Illini with a 7-3-2 mark.

They played well twice in three overall meetings against co-champion Dunlap and handed the other title winner, Morton, its lone defeat.

The departures of Illinois High School Soccer Coaches Association all-state and three-time first-team all-conference player Toni Ramadani (now at Bradley University) certainly will hurt.

Tyler Clark, a first-team all-conference and all-sectional pick, and second-team all-M-I choice Jacob Burd also are playing collegiate soccer after finishing at WCHS.

But the cupboard is far from bare.

There will be some positives from having more scoring options.

“We have a lot of speed on the outsides,” said senior Scotty Alexander. “There will be a lot more crossing and finishing this year.”

Senior goalkeeper Nick Garrison said, “I see a lot more passing and ball movement.”

The Panthers have seven returning starters, which Brooks said compares favorably with the other league leaders.

More than half the team elevated their games by playing club soccer in the offseason. The increase in skills for some individuals created pleasant surprises for the coaching staff.

In late July, Washington made its annual trek to Moline and won three times in five outings, surpassing its victory total from the previous three years combined.

Seniors Grant Wiseman, Zach Peterson, Alexander and Garrison are the captains.

“They all are returning starters and we expect big things out of them,” Brooks said.

The defense figures to be formidable.

Garrison is back as keeper. He improved his physical fitness, developed softer hands and is athletic.

Peterson, the sweeper, delivered a second-team all-conference campaign last season.

Joining him in a center back role is senior Zach Dinkheller.

The outside backs also are prominent players. Sophomore Joe Quinn was a freshman starter and junior Thomas Alt is starting for the third year.

“It’s so nice being able to rely on the defense,” Garrison said.

Brooks said they will help get the Panthers into their attack.

Nick Moore, a senior, is a player on the outside who has worked on finishing.

Juniors Paul Born and Ben Weil are a pair of surprises who have worked their way into key roles.

Alexander and Wiseman are players up front who will be counted on for goal scoring.

“Most of us have been together for at least a year. We all have chemistry,” said Alexander, who added half of the starters played together on the same club team.

The rest of the roster consists of: seniors — Ryan Staley, Steve Williams, Zach Poland, Dan Black, Bennet Wilcosky and Niel Curless; juniors — Tyler Alexander and Travis Wilkin; sophomores — Sean Mayginnes and Grant Cotner; and freshman Brian Scott.

“The level of the team is very similar to last year at this time,” Brooks said.

He mentioned 13 players, the biggest in Brooks’ tenure, passed the Cooper fitness test on the first day of practice. The captains corner and summer camps also were successes.

Brooks noted Pekin and Metamora also could be a factor in the conference.

“We expect to be in that race again and we won’t be happy if we’re not,” said Brooks.

The Mid-Illini went to a seven-game schedule this season after Canton’s program was elevated to the varsity level, creating boys soccer for all eight member schools. There had been a 12-game slate, playing all teams twice, since ’02-03.

Despite going to one league meeting per team, Washington kept a second game with M-I counterparts Metamora, Limestone, East Peoria and Pekin.

With the increased scheduling flexibility, the Panthers added Peoria Christian this year. Brooks said in the future he may look into games with teams from the Twin Cities or Quad Cities.

Washington was anxious to get to the season opener Tuesday vs. Bloomington.

“It will be nice to see how it looks when it all comes together,” said Garrison.

If teams overlook the Panthers this fall, they could experience an unwelcome outcome.