The Tolleson Union Wolverine boys soccer team is a solid bet to make the 6A playoffs each year.
Since Benjamin Andronic became the head coach in the 2013-14 season, Tolleson has had winning records and postseason appearances.
This year is no different, but the Wolves are doing it with a new style and players. The Wolves are two seasons removed from a 2016-17 campaign in which they were a single goal away from claiming an undefeated season and a state title. Tolleson finished 20-1 after a 0-1 loss to Gilbert in the 6A final that season, in the best season under Andronic. It went 15-4 last season and exited in the first round of the playoffs.
Many of Tolleson’s student leaders from two seasons prior graduated. Those who remain look back fondly and use their success as inspiration.
“We talk about that team all the time, how they moved the ball and the way everyone got along,” said junior captain Kelvin Guerrero, who was a contributor to the runner-up team as a freshman and led the team in goals last year.
“Last year was a little harder, like we didn’t fight or anything, it just didn’t go as well.”
A key to its success was heavy contributions from young players, and Tolleson hopes to continue that tradition.
Last year’s junior varsity team dominated nearly every game, and several of them worked to fight for spots on the varsity roster. Andronic said the additions have been particularly effective in attack, playing with speed and a confidence on the ball the team did not have last season.
“In one scrimmage, I saw them be aggressive and shoot way more. I really think they shot more than they would have in two or three games combined last season,” he said.
The former young guns are veterans, and they must become leaders in the locker room and on the field. Andronic, though, is hoping the new guard will make a vocal impact as well in its first year of playing at the top level.
“We kind of have two groups, a lot of seniors and a lot of sophomores, only a few juniors. But, it’s not just the seniors that can be leaders. I tell them all the time that anybody, any age can be a leader, and we’re going to need guys to step up,” he said.
The season began with an away match at Glendale High School on November 26. The results were not available at press time.
The Wolverines hope to start hot, but their focus is still on the postseason, and advancing when they get there.
“We pretty much have the same expectations every year,” Guerrero said. “Win the championship, and we’re going to work really hard to try to get there.”