Spread your wings: Eagles eye patience, persistence in 2013 campaign
The Allen boys soccer team has been as consistent as they come in recording playoff appearances the past decade.
Even last year's transition from former head coach Robert Jacobs to Bryan Hantak kept Allen afloat in posting a second place finish in District 8-5A. And in his second year at the helm, Hantak and the Eagles are eager for more.
"I'm very positive," he said. "We have 17 seniors and they love playing with each other. They're great friends and hang out with each other a lot. There's none of that negativity that comes with coaching a big group."
Those seniors comprise nearly three-quarters of the Eagles' roster, with Allen returning nine contributors from last year.
Therefore, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the Eagles' 2013 edition will feature a different stylistic approach than their predecessors.
"This team has taken on a personality of its own," Hantak said. "We're a heavily defensive team and more of a possession-style team whereas last year we were more about getting the ball and going. We're more patient this year."
Hantak added that his players are more willing to wait for openings within the defense. That approach was typified perhaps no better than Allen's 2-0 win over Euless Trinity at the Richland Winter Blast on Jan.10 when the Eagles strung together runs that included 12-14 passes without the Trojans so much as touching the ball.
Anchoring that outlook is a midfield that Allen hopes can match skills with any other in the Metroplex.
Seniors Evan Wyatt, Daniel Hansen and Zachary Helmick headline the unit while seniors Anthony Thompson, Andres Monti and junior Andrew Russell bring varying skill sets to the table.
"Our midfield is incredible," Hantak said. "You have three kids (Wyatt, Hansen, Helmick) who should be playing academy but are playing with us."
That kind of versatility is also available on Allen's front line, with senior forward Brandon Davidson and junior Matt Deary giving the Eagles room to be creative in how to approach defenses.
"Brandon's one of those kids who will blow you away with his speed and Matt's a kid who especially when he gets mad, he turns it on," Hantak said. "With those two, we can go with speed or just breaking a team down."
Defensively, seniors Kevin Ptacek and Austin Robinson are returning starters, while seniors Tyler Anderson and Andrew Greenleaf also set to see significant reps.
"[Ptacek] is all defense and positions himself well," Hantak said. "He's a great leader but can also put the ball out there and score goals too."
Between the pipes, junior C.J. Hendricks returns after starting in goal for the Eagles last year and will be just one cog in a three-player cycle that also includes seniors Stephen Gardner and Zachary Hays.
Each player has drawn similar reps early, with Allen completing its host tournament over the weekend. There, the Eagles garnered wins over Garland Naaman Forest (2-0) and Rowlett (1-0) while dropping a 2-0 decision to Coppell. The Eagles resumed play Tuesday with a 2-2 draw against Dallas Molina and next host Richardson Berkner at 7:30 p.m. Friday from the Track Stadium.
"I think this is a team that could go very far," Hantak said. "It's just a matter of how quickly we can click in all the right areas. If we can do that, we have great players who can step up and then who knows how far we can go."
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