EDITOR’S NOTE: On Monday, March 16, the Nebraska School Activities Association suspended all activity practices until March 30 and all activity competitions until April 2 due to COVID-19.

These suspensions may be extended should the conditions warrant.

Until an official decision has been made in regards to spring sports, the York News-Times sports department will be running its spring sports previews for girls and boys track and soccer, as well as boys golf and girls tennis, in the daily sports section.

YORK – With a good mix of experience from last year and a couple of athletic – but very raw – newcomers, the York Dukes boys soccer team would have been an interesting group to keep an eye on as the 2020 campaign progressed.

But unfortunately, the season is in limbo due to the Nebraska School Activities Association suspending all practices until March 30 and all activity competitions until April 2 because of COVID-19. Those suspensions may be extended should conditions warrant.

Should the season continue, York will be under the guidance of co-head coaches Matt Maltsberger and Joey Leinen along with assistant Brett Sorensen. The Dukes went 5-7 last year, but return plenty of production off the 2019 squad, including top scorers Dalton Stodieck and Thomas Ivey.

Stodieck, a senior who’s committed to play soccer at Midland University in Fremont, had a team-best five goals and two assists as a junior while Ivey, now a junior, had four goals and two assists.

“I really like the returning experience and production from last year,” Maltsberger said. “In addition, we have some young talent that has some foot skills.”

In total, York brings back seven starters, including Ross Fraser, Elias Coppinger, Jake Erwin, the goal keeper Chase Collingham and Noah Jones.

Coppinger was tied for third on the team in scoring last year with two goals, but he was the top assist man with five on the season. Fraser and Erwin are back as strong defenders for the Dukes.

Soccer is a different beast compared to other sports. Maltsberger and his staff know that. To get better, the players need reps and experience.

“We need awareness for the game. I believe we have what we need physically, yet we have to develop that feel for the game,” Maltsberger said. “Soccer is such a fluid sport that takes a tremendous amount of communication and understanding of space.”

York won’t be hurting for numbers. Twenty-two players are listed on the roster. And with the additions of athletic newcomers Jacob Diaz and Chase Cotton, Maltsberger will have options.

Both Diaz and Cotton started on the football team and were state-qualifying wrestlers this past February. Of course, soccer isn’t football and it’s not wrestling, but having two athletes willing to help out doesn’t hurt.

“We actually have a lot of depth this season. There are going to be some tough decisions between that junior varsity and varsity split. That’s a good problem to have,” Maltsberger said. “The boys are competing for playing time and it’s an open competition in our program. We have 41 athletes competing this year.”

Along with the aforementioned returners and six incoming freshmen, the Dukes bring back seven more letterwinners, including Alex Lopez, Sergio Hernandez, Lane Wurst, Emmett Heiss, Jon Portillo, Cooper Koch and Malik Patterson.

The solid numbers would’ve been useful for competition at practice, which would’ve given the coaching staff more opportunities to see what it’s working with. More reps help get the best players on the field.

“We talk a lot about expectations and goals. Our goal is to make the state tournament,” Maltsberger said. “We expect to compete not only in each contest, but each day at practice.”

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