MIAMI — With a core of six returning sophomores out of 24 prospects, the Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College Golden Norsemen soccer team open the regular season at 7 p.m. Friday, Aug. 25, by hosting the Greyhounds of State Fair Community College from Sedalia, Missouri, on Red Robertson Field.
“We’ve literally had only 12 days together, so I haven’t even had time to look at one player for one day,” Golden Norse head coach John Parrigon said. “So we’ll be tinkering with our rotations probably three or four matches into the season. We’ll get it ironed out by the time we get to our conference play.”
Last season the Golden Norsemen won their second consecutive Region II Tournament crown and finished with a 2-2-2 regional record. NEO lost 1-0 to Cloud County, Kansas, in the opening round of the District I Tournament to finish 11-5-2 overall.
“We’re actually down a little bit from last year when we had 29 players on the team,” Parrigon said. “We figure our midfielders run about five miles a match, so we can never have enough of them.
“We’re really deep in terms of depth at our midfield positions and as far as our forward spots we’re going to need some freshmen to step up,” Parrigon said. “But we seem to have just enough along our back line that will be effective.”
Much like in seasons past, the Golden Norsemen only spent two weeks in preseason workouts before starting the regular season.
“Just like in the past, we’re kind of rushing into the season which has become normal for us,” Parrigon said. “We’re at that time frame which makes it difficult when you’ve got a whole bunch of freshmen.
“We’ve still got some figuring to do,” Parrigon said. “During our scrimmages, we’ve had a few guys that didn’t show up and play well, so as a coach you’re always waiting to see which one of those are going to show up in a match.”
One position that Parrigon will do a lot of platooning is the goalie. Three freshmen are challenging for playing time in the net.
“Our starting goalie changes on a daily basis,” Parrigon said. “Wade Laughlin, our assistant coach, was our goalkeeper in 2014-15 and every day after practice we kind of have a new name surface to take the lead.”
Freshmen Tyler Large of Coweta, Darius Silversmith of Claremore and Francisco Garcia of Van Buren, Arkansas, are locked in a battle for playing time.
“Francisco is one of the most athletic players we have while Darius is smooth and solid every day,” Parrigon said. “Tyler has the big body and does a lot of different things really well.”
Starting at the two center-back positions for the Norsemen are sophomore Cole Hillton of Owasso and freshman Jack Holmes of Gloucester, England. Hillton started for the Norsemen during the 2015 season, but sat out last year.
“Cole brings a solid presence in the middle,” Parrigon said. “Then we have freshmen Lucus Lyrio de Oliveria of Brazil and Jose Manuel Pagliani Mejia of Rogers, Arkansas, that are tremendous defenders.”