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Thompson Soccer: Step By Step

Thompson High School is riding a veritable tidal wave of momentum in athletics into the spring sports season and the soccer program is no different.

Head coach Dan DeMasters has overseen exponential growth in the boys and girls teams since arriving in 2019 and compiled the best soccer regular season records in years for both sides. DeMasters, who personally oversees the girls squad, saw the team go 17-6-3 in 2021–including a home win over Hoover for the first time in his tenure.

Now the Birmingham coaching veteran returns experienced talent from last year's team while also seeing multiple freshmen contribute in a big way.

“We lost a lot, but we also got a good bit back. It’s definitely not rebuilding and we’ve got a lot of pieces,” says DeMasters. “This is the oldest team I’ve ever had (at Thompson), we have 15 juniors and seniors who are part of our lineup and see time.”

The dominance of central Alabama in the soccer world is nothing short of stunning. Seven of the last eight boys state champions have been from the Birmingham area while 13 of the last 14 state champions have resided on the metro map

on the girls’ side.

“We’re in a really tough area so we just have to get over that hump,” says DeMasters. “Last year we beat Hoover for the first time since I’ve been here, but they went on to the playoffs because they beat us in goal differential.”

In soccer, all wins are not created equal. Despite the 1-0 win over the Buccaneers, a 3-1 loss earlier in the year edged the Warriors out of the postseason by the slimmest of margins.

Morgan Snyder and Marlee Roach are two upperclassmen that bolster the defense, but Snyder will have to join the team midseason sustaining an injury just before the team’s first game. Until then, the offense will have to step up and they’re in a great position to do so.

Thompson brings back a good mix of trustworthy leadership mixed with young talent. Junior Georgia Cousins has battled injuries the last couple of years, but returns to lead the Warriors’ attack on offense. The emergence of freshman Dia Montiel-Duenas is also something to watch as the team’s top scorer so far.

Coach DeMasters has also assembled a top tier group of coaches to mold his players from their early teens all the way to when they graduate.

“Overall, this is the best staff that the girls’ side has ever had,” says DeMasters. “Literally from middle school to high school every coach has played at the collegiate level. Some varsity teams around the state don’t get that.”

Now the players’ development coming into the varsity program is night and day compared to when DeMasters first arrived in Alabaster. Both in technical and tactical skills.

In the off-season, the Warriors also brought in Jon Kresena to helm the boys’ program. Kresena is a Texas native with a strong soccer background playing at Lambuth University in Jackson, TN and later for the St. Louis Lions of the Premier Development League. He’s been a staff coach for the Birmingham United Soccer Association (BUSA) since 2012 where he and Coach DeMasters first began to collaborate.

“Jon coaches one of the best club teams in the state that has players from all over, even Mississippi and Georgia,” says DeMasters. “He does things the right way, he communicates with his players very well. The culture he sets, I️ think this is why I️ loved hiring him, it’s similar to mine. He’s a disciplinarian, works hard, knows the game.”

Thompson’s boys program has won 23 games over the last two years with just five losses combined in the regular season. The Warriors went 10-4-3 a year ago with a 3-3 record in area play that saw the team win on the road at Oak Mountain. It was a heavily senior-laden group, but 13 upperclassmen dot this year’s roster so Kresena is inheriting a promising young club that has what it takes to make a nice run over the next few years.

“It shows a bright future. It’s a transition year with Coach Kresena where they’re getting used to him and he’s getting used to them,” says DeMasters. “He’s been promoting a whole new culture and a new discipline to his program and I think it’s great. He brings a level of soccer knowledge and he’s one of the top coaches in the state.”

“The guys are really buying in and enjoying it because he brings a level of soccer that they’ve never really had,” says DeMasters. “His youthful leadership is going to make their years to come even better. This year is about setting the standard of what he’s expecting.”

Kresena will have a chance to put his own imprint on a young, gifted group that’s eager to form their own identity and find their own success. It’s a challenge moving from the club scene to heading up your own high school program, but something Dan DeMasters has high confidence Kresena can accomplish as a young, high acumen coach.

“He’s coming in with a small senior class that’s the same way that I️ came in. I️ think the boys have a little bit better of a soccer background so I️ believe Jon will have success a little quicker than me.”

Thompson certainly looks to have a competitive season on the pitch, brimming with possibility and potential.


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