When New Berlin West boys soccer coach Matt Drago ran a lineup out of mostly underclassmen in 2015, he understood the Vikings were going to have growing pains. But it was all part of the developmental process.
After going 3-18 in 2015, the roster comprised of mostly the same players improved to 6-7-4 and 5-5-1 in the Woodland Conference this past season. With all but two players returning in 2017, Drago is hoping his team continues to grow.
"We improved immensely from the previous year," Drago said. "It was virtually the same team as 2015 when we had nine underclassmen starting on varsity. We took a lot of lumps that year, but the improvement to 2016 was about what we had hoped.
"We still struggled to find the net and may make some changes in that regard for 2017. As always, it truly depends on who puts in the work in the off-season. We'll see come fall."
Junior midfielder Dominic DeLuca was named second team All-Woodland Conference, finishing the season with five goals and four assists, including one game-winning goal and one game-winning assist.
"Dom did all of his damage from central midfield, and largely defensive center midfield at that," Drago said. "Between him and Mason Church, they both implement what is worked on in practice as well as any players I have ever had the pleasure of coaching."
Earning honorable mention All-Woodland for New Berlin West were junior midfielder Mason Church (five goals, two assists, one game-winning goal, one game-winning assist), sophomore midfielder Corbin Neutgens (three goals, two assists, two game-winning goals, one game-winning assist) and junior forward Nate Garris (seven goals, four assists, one game-winning goal, one game-winning assist).
"One of the best things about Mason Church is that you know what you will get from him game to game," Drago said. "He never complains about injuries, he never shows up late, always has a positive attitude and wants to win in everything he does.
"Corbin is one of the most talented players on our team, and his talent is directly correlated to his work ethic in the offseason. His skills increase every year because he works on them more than most. We're anxious to see what he can do for us next year. Nate is our team speed up front and has great awareness in the final third."
DeLuca also earned the Mike Dillett Award for his leadership and attitude toward teammates. Senior captain Blaise Spath was named as the team's defensive player of the year, sophomore Sean Moran was given the Hustle Award and Garris took home the award for having the most points.
In addition to Spath, the Vikings will graduate senior Jacob Kolp.
"2017 will be the third year in a row with virtually the same team, so we are expecting to do some good things," Drago said. "We'll know more with how hard everyone works in the offseason. Our season completely hinges on our level of commitment between now and August."