WEBSTER CITY - Ask Craig Signorin the question - what happened? - and he still doesn't have a definitive answer.
His first season in charge of the Webster City boys' soccer program a year ago began with so much promise, and yet it ended in frustration.
He's still trying to figure out why.
DFJ photo by Troy Banning
Caleb Crouthamel lines up a goal against Humboldt last season, one of his team-high 15 in 2011. Already Webster City’s all-time leader in goals, he enters his senior season ready to add to his haul.
"I wish I knew," he said. "Our work ethic in practice was great, and I know the guys wanted it, but it just didn't turn out the way we wanted it to."
WCHS opened the 2011 campaign with eight straight victories, and the Lynx appeared to be a viable contender for a spot in the state tournament. And then the wheels fell off, as they dropped six of their final eight matches, including a disappointing 4-0 loss to Spencer in a Class 2A substate semifinal.
The slide coincided with the loss of Ukraine foreign exchange student Alex Yaremenko, a midfielder, who returned to his homeland just days after the Lynx improved to 8-0.
"I don't know if it was the Alex thing or if what we were doing got to the guys a little bit," Signorin said. "Alex was our guy in the middle though; he made it happen."
Signorin hopes to use last year as motivation for his group this spring as the Lynx get set to open the season on Thursday at home against Ballard. And he has a talented and hungry veteran unit at his disposal.
WCHS returns its all-time leading goal scorer - senior forward Caleb Crouthamel - along with fellow returning starters Garrett Gourley, a senior, and Christian Lemus, a junior.
Crouthamel notched 15 goals a season ago, and he recorded the second and third hat tricks of his career. His speed down the sideline will be a weapon the Lynx hope to utilize throughout the spring.
"Caleb plays better when he just goes out there and does his thing, and he and Christian are our captains up there," Signorin said. "They love the game, first of all, which is great to see, and they work hard. Everyone sees that and everyone takes after that."
Senior Jonny Davis could also make an impact. He's a novice to the varsity level, but Signorin says there's no substitute for athleticism.
"Jonny's a great athlete, everybody can see that from football and basketball," he said.
Freshman Demar Lemus, the younger brother of Christian, is also expected to contribute in the midfield.
But it's the back line that could be the Lynx greatest strength. The entire defensive backfield - senior Aaron Hoffman, and juniors Brody Foster, Nick Olmstead and Kirk Greenley - return, and they were as stingy as they come during last spring's early-season surge.
WCHS recorded four shutouts in 2011.
"Even though I'm an offensive-minded guy, having a strong defense that connects like those guys do on and off the field is just tremendous," Signorin said. "I trust all of them back there and they just really work well together."
That was evident in the Lynx preseason scrimmage against Ames High, which ended in a 0-0 draw.
"You don't see football and basketball players on the field for Ames, you see soccer players, and they didn't score on us," Signorin said. "They couldn't get past our defense and that was really nice to see.
"Everyone knows that those guys run the show back there."
Junior Austin Koons will return to his familiar spot in net for the Lynx, but he'll miss Thursday's opener because of a red card he drew in last season's substate loss to Spencer. Senior Adam Wagner will get the start in his place.
Thursday's bout against Ballard will begin at 5:30 p.m.