By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Ever since falling short of the playoffs, Stillwater High School soccer coach Seth Condley and the Pioneers have been itching to get back out on the pitch.
Now, as the dog days of summer set in, Condley and crew will get their wish — traveling to Springfield, Mo., for the four-day Missouri State University team camp.
“I love this camp,” Condley said. “It’s a barometer for how the high school season usually ends up. When we’ve done well at this camp, we ususally have a pretty good high school season. Even though they’re five months apart, it helps the guys as they go into the club season and then go on to the high school season.”
With players like Gasem Gasem, Sam Smith, Matheus Barbosa and Ian Fladie all graduating this past season, this camp is not only a chance for the Pioneers to get the bad taste out of their mouths. It’s also a chance for Condley to get a look at who will contribute on next year’s club.
“It kind of gives me an idea of which kids are ready to step up at the varsity level and maybe which ones aren’t quite ready yet,” Condley said. “There are some kids that change from team camp to club to the high school season. A lot of kids develop over that six months, but this is kind of where we start.”
Among those Condley will likely have his eye on are goalkeeper Jackson Murphy and players like Tre Diaz, Matt Millis and Garrison Glass — guys who came on late in the season for the Pioneers.
“It’s going to be a challenge, but I think this senior class coming up should be pretty good,” Condley said. “I’ve really challenged them all year and they’ve done a really good job since our season ended. There’s about 10 of them and I think they’re all going to camp. Our younger kids are going to be relying on guys like Nathan Herrman, Jackson Murphy, Garrison Glass and Nick Hawkins. Those are some of the seniors that need to have a really good camp.
“It’s a really good way to evaluate which players can perform under pressure and who are ready technically to take the next step,” Condley said. “If they build from what they learn at camp, then hopefully they’ll get better in their club season.”
Going to a camp like the one in Springfield may give Condley an idea where his team stands when it comes to next season, but it also does another thing. It lets the Pioneers face some competition — competition that would be comparable to the Jenks and Tulsa Union’s of Oklahoma as teams from as far away as Colorado will be there.
“There are teams from Colorado, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, along with a couple of Oklahoma teams,” Condley said. “They just come in from all over the region and we get to see some different teams and some different styles of play. I love it, I think the guys like it. ... It’s just fun. It’s hot and it’s hard work, but these guys love soccer. The cool thing is that we get to go play real games against other competition that you wouldn’t see.”
The fact that Stillwater will be facing so many different teams actually altered Condley’s plans. Typically, he takes one squad to Missouri State. This year he’ll be taking two and hopes to get everybody more experience.
“I’m really excited about taking two teams,” Condley said. “I can mix and match both teams. I can move guys around from team to team and see what the best combinations are.
“This is the first year that we’re actually taking two teams. I had enough interest that I could almost fill up three teams for it.”
Not having seen much of his team since their season ended, Condley wasn’t sure how his team will respond but he hopes that they would at least win a couple of games.
“We go into this camp expecting to win every game we play,” Condley said. “Will that happen? I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and find out. But the main thing that we want to do is get some experience and get these guys ready for club soccer. We have enough talent that if we can do that, then we can take what we work on in the club and build upon that for the high school season.”