With big expectations, Athens soccer team is delivering, over and over

By: Mike Moore | Troy Times | Published September 11, 2013

 Senior Luis Ayana led the team with nine goals in the first eight games. Athens was 8-0-0 at press time.

Senior Luis Ayana led the team with nine goals in the first eight games. Athens was 8-0-0 at press time.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

TROY — He expected success, prognosticated more wins than losses and knew, with how much talent he had coming back, that the 2013 season could be a special one.

How special?

That’s the one thing Troy Athens soccer coach Todd Heugh couldn’t predict.

But so far, he likes what he sees.

“I had a feeling we could have a real good season, but to say we’d start like this, I don’t know that I expected that,” Heugh said with a laugh last week.

At press time, and entering a Sept. 10 game at Troy High, Athens was 8-0 on the season, and the defending Oakland Activities Association Red Division champs were 1-0 in league play.

“It’s hard to remain undefeated in this league and with our schedule,” Heugh added. “I’m sure the adversity will come, but right now, we have a bunch of seniors that are leading the way for this team.”

It may be hard to point to one certain thing that’s caused the eight-for-eight streak to begin the year, but the seniors would be a good place to start.

Of the 23 players on the roster, 13 are elderstatesmen.

“We have that veteran experience and leadership you always want,” Heugh said.

In 2012, Athens finished 13-5-2 and won the Red with a 6-0-1 mark.

Come playoff time, the guys fell to Rochester Hills Stoney Creek 1-0 in a Division 1 district semifinal.

But the end of the season was just the beginning for many still on the team.

The Red Hawks brought back seven starters, and coupled with the senior-led attitude, hit the ground running.

Athens began the schedule with a trip to Alpena, went 3-0 and haven’t looked back since.

The team is scoring goals in bunches, and through eight games had allowed only three in its own net.

Senior Luis Anaya leads the team with nine tallies, while fellow senior Bryan Lawson already has six.

“Playing with the lead always helps,” Heugh said. “Defensively, we’re really limiting chances, and that’s key.”

Heugh expects to contend for the Red title again, adding the playoffs are always something his guys keep in the back of their minds.

“It’s a tough district,” he said. “It’s probably easier to win the regional than it will be for that team to win the district.”

Still, with what’s been done so far, as perfect as it’s been, Heugh knows there’s little reason “that team” can’t be his team.

“I really like this group,” he said. “I liked them last year, too, but with all these kids that were thrown into the fire and now are battle-tested, you have to like the chances we have. If we can continue to maintain play at this level, we’ll be all right. That’s the challenge we face right now.”