IVCC men’s soccer coach Tim Cottingim has a salty taste left in his mouth from last season.

The Eagles went 1-17-1 on the pitch and most of last year’s freshmen are no longer on the roster.

However, the four-year IVCC coach has revamped the staff to try to change the end result.

“I’m very optimistic about this group. Attitude-wise, we changed a few things in terms of the way we are doing things and these guys really responded,” Cottingim said. “I’m excited about how they’ve responded and our talent level, too. We’ve brought in a lot of players from out of district. I think we have more talent and skill on our team than we did last year. We also have a higher soccer IQ, which is really important.

“I wanted a higher level of commitment, so we’re doing some things that show that. We’re training in the morning (6:15-8 a.m.) before school starts and I’ve had a good response so far. Everything is just a little more demanding overall. There just isn’t room for error. Players are going to have to be more responsive or they might fall by the wayside.”

FOUR RETURNING PLAYERS

The Eagles have four players returning from last year’s squad in La Salle-Peru graduate Fidel Mora, Mendota alumnus Ruti Arteaga, Oscar Pizano from Genoa-Kingston and Christian Resendez, of Ottawa.

Mora and Pizano are midfielders, Resendez is a defender and Arteaga could find himself in the back of the defense or at midfield.

However, none of them are promised a starting position.

“With last year being such a debacle, the fact that these four made it through is a testament to them,” Cottingim said. “They will have every chance to earn a starting spot and to lead the team. So far, I like what I’ve seen out of them.

“They should be able to produce. They know the level of competition. They know what we went through last year in terms of how bad it was. They know what it takes to be successful, too. I really expect a lot from those guys. They all have the opportunity to start.”

PLAYERS FROM THE AREA

Besides Mora and Arteaga, Cottingim did recruit other players from the area.

Mendota graduate Eddie Perez has stepped in as someone who could contribute as an attacking center-mid.

“Eddie Perez is going to be a real solid player. I’m really high on him,” Cottingim said. “We had a scrimmage on Saturday and he really performed. He really stood out. I wasn’t sure if his talent was going to transfer to this level, but he looked good.”

Francisco Villagomez, who played for DePue-Hall last fall, is a candidate to start on defense, while D-H graduate Oscar Camacho has a chance to start as a forward.

Cody Smith did not play high school soccer since Fieldcrest doesn’t have a program, but he still could be the Eagles’ goalkeeper.

“He has an opportunity to start at goalkeeper. Fieldcrest doesn’t have soccer, so he has been bouncing around playing recreational and club soccer,” Cottingim said. “He’s not really seasoned, but I think he can break through, though.”

OUT OF THE AREA PLAYERS

There is a lot of excitement in Cottingim’s voice when he talks about the talent level of players on this year’s team.

It starts with players from the Illinois Valley and goes everywhere, including South Africa.

“We have a player from South Africa who is a real live wire, Pumi Maphumulo. He’s amazing,” Cottingim said. “He was a member of the 21-and-under South African field hockey national team. He had to walk away from it because they don’t fund it and when they took trips to other countries, he had to pay his own way. He has a high level of energy and athleticism.”

Streator has four 2019 graduates on the team who have a chance to start as defenders in Nate Carby and Alex Angelico, goalkeeper Blake Rowe and midfielder Blaine Parcher.

Centralia has sent midfielders Emilson Castro and Bayron Cruz, while Carbondale’s Connor Snowden will help in the back field.

GOALKEEPER COMPETITION

“It’s between Rowe and Smith,” Cottingim said. “They’re the only two on the roster. Cody wasn’t at the scrimmage on Saturday, so he’s a little behind. Blake played decent and has the head start. We will see what happens.”

WHO WILL SCORE GOALS?

Cottingim doesn’t think it will be a one-man show as he has added many players with scoring ability.

Krystian Nikolav, from Antioch, has stood out as a force at the forward position, while Cruz has showcased breakdown ability and has Cottingim thinking he will pile up goals and assists.

DEFENSIVE ANCHORS

There are not a lot of players locked into positions before the first game Aug. 23 at Joliet Junior College.

However, Cottingim feels strongly about his defense and who will be the anchors to stop opposing offenses.

“Carby is definitely going to start. He’s a lock starter at center-back at this point,” Cottingim said. “Snowden is a lock starter on the outside. The other ones are open. We had some nicks on Saturday, so we’ll do some maneuvering to see who will start. I think Villagomez is a real good possibility on the other outside spot.”

Brandon LaChance can be reached at 220-6995, or sports@newstrib.com. Follow him on Twitter @NT_LaChance.

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