Patrick Sweatt, a junior on the Indian Land boys soccer team, a third-year player and the starting goalkeeper, knows he has a lot of pressure to live up to this season- a challenge that Head Coach Adam Cole believes Sweatt is ready to handle.
"He's definitely a key player. We depend on him to make a lot of saves," Cole said about his goalkeeper. "He's definitely all-state material though. I think he matches up with the best of the 4A players."
Last year, Sweatt was on the team along with his brother, Anthony Sweatt, who set Indian Land's single-season goal record, with 26 on the year.
This year, however, he is front and center guarding the Warriors' goal, since his brother graduated.
"I expect us to be a lot better this year. We had a lot more people come out," Sweatt said. "For me, I'm hoping to have at least four or five shutouts this season."
Sweatt said he has been playing soccer since he was about 4 years old. He knows the game and he said he thinks this year's senior-heavy team could be talented enough to make a run in the state tournament.
The Indian Land team is returning a large group of players from last year's squad, a team that began to make a playoff run by beating Lewisville in the first round, but ran into a juggernaut, defending state champion Christ Church, and was dropped 3-0 in the second round.
There are seven seniors on this year's team, all starters a year ago. That will be the core of a team Cole believes has come together after posting an 11-5-1 record.
"We've grown a lot," Cole said.
As a 1A program, the team uses games against larger schools to measure their progress early in the season.
The team is off to a good start in that regard, winning a scrimmage last Wednesday at Lancaster, 3-2.
While "defense is definitely the shining spot" on the Warriors' team, according to Cole, it is a newcomer to the offense who is beginning to show promise early in the year.
Scoring a goal in the Lancaster match was Sergio Esparrago, a junior who is playing his first season on an American soccer team after his family moved to the area from Costa Rica about a year and a half ago.
"This is a good opportunity for me. Soccer is big in Costa Rica but I have a better chance to excel here," Esparrago said.
As a striker, Esparrago said he knows about Anthony Sweatt's scoring record from last season and said it helped him set a goal of his own.
"I want to pass 26; I'm going for the record," Esparrago said with a smile.
The Warriors kick off their regular season March 6 at the Rose City Soccer Tournament at Andrew Jackson High School.
:2009 Indian Land Boys Soccer Schedule
March 6 @ Lancaster*
March 7 @ TBA*
March 16 @ Westminster Catawba
March 18 @ Great Falls
March 20 @ Greenville Tech
March 23 Westminster Catawba
March 25 Clover
March 27 Ninety Six
March 31 @ Buford
April 2 Great Falls
April 3 @ Ninety Six
April 7 @ Lewisville
April 9 Andrew Jackson
April 23 @ Andrew Jackson
April 28 Lewisville
April 30 Buford
May 1 Greenville Tech
*Rose City Soccer Tournament at Andrew Jackson