It may be a new year, but expectations with the Laramie Plainsmen soccer team remain high with the 2018 season just underway.

Laramie head coach Dan Benford won a state title in his first year, but year two finished with disappointment. The Plainsmen finished 13-5-1 last season. They went 7-2-1 in the conference and earned an automatic bid to the state tournament last year, but the post-season didn’t turn out like they hoped. Laramie lost in the regional final. Then, they got upset in the first round at state and went 1-2 for that weekend.

Now the third-year coach has another veteran team for this new season. His squad returns eight starters and 12 total lettermen from last year. They’ll be led this season by three returning All-State players in seniors Kyle Reynolds, Enrique Isidro and Tanner Reidel. Junior Cadel Rosales was recognized as an All-Conference performer. Those four are expected to anchor another talented roster.

Benford says one part he’s noticed in year three is that this team is starting to take on more of his personality.

“We’re more fun out there than it was necessarily when I took over. We always like to joke around, have a good time. We play our best when we’re actually playing loose, and we’re not so up-tight, and focused on making everything perfect. When we’re really just feeling it and having fun, that’s when we’re at our best. I think this team, more than any, really personifies that.”

The Plainsmen lost their opener at Kelly Walsh on a last second goal, 1-0, on Tuesday.

Benford said what he took away from the loss was they needed to go over some basics. He also know they still need to mesh their units together.

“If my defense is going to see the best in the state, then they need to go against the best that I have (our offense). So, I try to run my first team offense against the defense, so they’re never really playing together… We’ve got to connect. We’ve got to know where we are together, and we gotta talk to each other. It’s not just the units, offense and defense separately, but all together as one team.”

Seniors Kyle Reynolds (defender) and Timmy Atencio (midfielder) visited with KOWB’s David Settle about this season. They discussed how the team’s coming together, what they need to work on, including meshing the offense and defense, plus a little of the lighter side.

Benford said he would have a better idea of where his team fits in the 4A mix after seeing more action. He also mentioned his team will utilize its skill and not play as direct as last year. They want to build an attack and hold the possession to control the flow based on the team they have this year. As for the goal, it’s about aiming high.

“I had the conversation with this team that this team is too good, too talented to have something like making the conference tournament a goal. Making state should not be our goal, but performing when we’re actually there… We’re looking to make a name for ourselves in state and make-up for last year. So yeah, we set this goal high, state title. That’s what we want to work for. We think we have the talent, but we’re just not there yet.”

The schedule has them on the road for their first four, which includes the start of conference at Campbell County and Sheridan this weekend. They also visit Natrona County next Tuesday. Their home opener will be April 5 versus Cheyenne South.

It all will lead to the post-season. The regional tournament will be in Gillette, May 10-12, followed by the state tournament in Jackson, May 17-19.