Warriors Soccer Confident Headed Into Kresena’s Second Year
A year removed from their first postseason appearance in several seasons and a year into the Jon Kresena era, the Thompson Warriors believe anything is possible for the boys soccer club in 2023.
Soccer program director Daniel DeMasters brought in Kresena to helm the boys soccer team and not only did he predict a great year, but also predicted the Warriors’ playoff run.
Thompson returned just three players going into the 2022 season, but a year later return 13 players making a world of difference from year one to year two in Kresena’s system. Senior Josh Owens headlines as an MLS Next All-Star and MVP of last year’s All-State game and describes this year’s unit with a singular focus.
“It’s a totally different mindset. This year we can’t afford to lose, if we lose it kills us,” said Owens.
Thompson looks to take a major step forward as the team’s familiarity with the coaching staff is expected to pay dividends down the road.
“Year one was back to basics, teaching my style of soccer and implementing the pace of the game…now that most of the players are coming back, they know what my expectations are and we can hit the ground running,” says Kresena. “The training sessions are shortened so we can cover more topics during the week so we’re much more advanced.”
Thompson will have a top flight senior class, but also welcome back talented juniors like Daylen Worth who recorded two hat tricks in his sophomore season. The coaching staff is excited about his development and what he’ll bring to the team as an upperclassman.
“He’s grown tremendously, he’s a lot faster on the ball, he’s a lot bigger and stronger,” says Krensena. “Plus technical ability has gotten better over the course of the last year because he’s been playing club so I️ think we’re going to see a lot out of Daylen.”
Perennial top program, Oak Mountain moved out of Thompson’s area in the latest state reclassification, but the competition didn’t get any thinner with preseason no. 3 Vestavia Hills replacing them—the team that eliminated the Warriors from the postseason last year.
“It’s a little more difficult, we’re in one of the toughest areas in the state with Hoover, Vestavia and us. That battle to get into the playoffs is heightened,” says Kresena. “Obviously we lost to Vestavia in the first round last year so we have a little bit of a chip on our shoulder to make sure we beat them in the regular season and get that number one seed going into the playoffs.”
The Thompson soccer program will have to take another big step to contend with the top teams in the metro area, but are poised to make that jump in year two with Kresena. If you ask the players, the team’s togetherness in the offseason will be a tremendous factor in the unspoken communication they’ll need on the pitch.
“Coach was telling us this is probably the team with the most chemistry he’s ever coached,” says senior Salvi Mejia. “We’re so bonded it’s perfect, the connection is there, it’s a family. We’re together multiple hours of the day, we’re talking all the time.”
Kresena believes it’s a bond that can only be achieved in high school sports.
“Coming from the club world, a lot of those kids don’t see each other day in and day out, with high school we’re together in the mornings, we’re together on the weekends, we’re together after school,” says Kresena. “So I️ believe a lot of our success will come from our team chemistry. Nobody bickers, nobody argues internally, nobody gossips so all of that helps them on the field because they’re out there to help each other.”
Kresena first met DeMasters working with club teams where the skill level is elevated, but the players come from multiple states so the connection the players share can only go so far.
“The club scene is more business, with high school it’s more family-oriented, family-focused, making sure these guys enjoy their experiences and if all those things go well then obviously winning comes through.”
The Warriors’ confidence is only superseded by their eagerness to get on the field and back up the hype with their play.
“Going up against Vestavia, we want our get back for sure. We definitely want that game, Helena at home. We’re out for everyone. We don’t talk that much,” says senior Kevin Nieves.
Even though the program reached new heights last year, the student-athletes at Thompson still didn’t comprehend what was needed to make the state recognize they’re here for the long haul. Now, they’re ready to use 2023 as their proving ground.
“We didn’t really understand what we were up against last year with a first year team and this year we see what we have to do to succeed in the playoffs,” said Owens.
The momentum is growing on the Warriors’ side and the potential of this deep squad should great anticipation for what’s possible as the spring season approaches.