ROCHESTER HILLS — When the regular season ended, his squad was the second best in a division many considered the best in the state.
When the opening bracket of the postseason ended, that same squad was moving on from a district many considered the best in the state.
So it went for the Rochester Hills Stoney Creek soccer team in 2012.
A roster loaded with experience and talent proved to be one of the program’s best in a while, taking the journey to a regional semifinal, where it all ended in a 5-3 overtime loss to Grand Blanc High.
And with that, the exodus began.
“We had four returning players, and not a single returning starter when (2013) began,” coach Adam Bican said. “We had some very talented players, but guys that hadn’t played together or played at the varsity level.”
So, following a 15-3-7 season, what exactly did Bican expect this fall?
“My hope was to be competitive,” he said. “I saw us as a team that could battle with everyone in the league and find a way to be in the middle of the pack.”
He was wrong.
“A lot of our success so far has to do with having young players that come into the program and were willing to work for everything they want to accomplish,” Bican said. “They want to represent the program in the way they should. It makes my job a lot easier.”
At press time, and despite just four varsity veterans and 11 new starters in the mix, Stoney was 9-2-4 overall and tied atop the Oakland Activities Association Red Division with a 2-0-1 record.
“I think when the season began, we were a little nervous,” senior Andrew Pitlock said. “At the same time, we weren’t ranked, and I think a lot of people were looking past us because of all the guys we lost. That motivated us. We were inspired by last year’s team to try and do many of the same things.”
The guys have adapted and developed into a cohesive unit in almost no time.
Bican gave much of that credit to the offseason work put in, as well as some overnight trips the schedule has produced.
“The offseason, the summer months, that really plays into how we’re doing now,” he said. “These guys knew the challenge they were presented with, and they went out and worked as hard as they could to be ready for it.”
As for the schedule?
“We took a preseason trip to Portage for three games, and also played five games up north in Traverse City and Petoskey,” Bican added. “To spend that much time around one another really helps. You just see the chemistry in the way they play.”
“That’s where everyone first got to really know each other,” senior Alec Tayloe explained. “I think that was key because it was where the underclassmen seemed to feel like they had a home here at Stoney Creek. … I think being as close a team as we are, we’re able to bring that to practice and games and feed off each other. Everybody on this team has a desire and a passion to play (for each other).”
From just competing to contending, the mission has certainly changed for a team ranked as high as No. 8 in Division 1 by the coaches association.
“I think now, being a champ in the Red is our main goal,” Bican said. “It’s a great league with so many great teams, but we feel we can be right in the mix.”
“I think this team is still bummed at how last year ended,” Pitlock said. “We want to win the Red, but we also want to take things a step further. That means winning a district and then going beyond the regional game we lost in.”