WEBSTER GROVES — The leader has changed, but little else appears different around the Webster Groves boys soccer program.
Senior attacking midfielder Owen Culver said the Statesmen don't expect to skip a beat under new head coach Tim Velten, who succeeded retiring coach Tim Cashel.
“Our tradition has (built) because kids come out to watch and it gets them excited for the future,” Culver said. “I know I watched the teams here win state and it got me excited because I knew I wanted to be a part of it here. Success just keeps things going. People see it and want to be a part of it.”
The Statesmen finished second in Class 3 in Cashel's swan song last season after winning consecutive titles in 2014 and 2015.
While three state trophies in five seasons have been special, Velten said during the team's practice Tuesday at Selma Field that the culture of success built around the program has been key.
“I'm a new coach and my goal is to keep the ball rolling,” Velten said. “I want to build off of everything (Cashel) has done. He took a lot of pride in being one of those premier schools. I want to continue his work and build off of it. We're in a really tough conference of public schools. We'll compete, do our best and see where we can go. Having a program that has a style and philosophy, everything I agree with, is great.”
Webster Groves senior midfielder Sam Oesterlei said he's excited for the process that is being built under Velten.
He said that coach just wants his charges to win the day, every day.
“We want to improve a lot from where we are now and our ultimate goal is to win state,” Oesterlei said. “There really is no pressure here because, at the end of the day, everyone is just trying to have fun.”
Velten welcomes back five starters from the 15-12-1 team last season and said he likes what he sees in the team.
The Statesmen open their season at noon Aug. 31 by facing Glendale at SLUH.
“We lost a strong group of seniors that had a strong quality of leadership,” Velten said. “We have a strong group of seniors as well that we're excited about. Sam, (back) Alex Rosenblatt, our goalie, Preston Haney, and (forwards) Ben Winkelmann and Henry Bante — I don't see a strong alpha in the group, I just see that strong group that will lead. We want to get better, better and better. I want to see that growth and, if that takes us back to state, that's great. Ultimately our concern is us and getting better. A state championship is in the back of some guys' minds, but just growth from day one to the last day is what I want to see.”