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Warriors launch a big turnaround

Team that went 2-12-1 in ’06 is off to 4-1 start

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It all feels like a nightmare now, a distant memory that perhaps wasn't even real.

But it was only a season ago that things were bleak for the Taylorsville boys soccer team.

Really bleak.

The Warriors went 2-12-1 in 2006, and they concluded that miserable experience with an 8-0 season-ending loss to Brighton. By the time it ended, Brighton had cleared its entire bench in hopes of keeping the score down.

What a memory for Taylorsville.

Those involved with the Warriors' program all recall what that felt like, and the fact they managed to endure it makes 2007 feel that much sweeter.

So far, the turnaround couldn't be more stunning.

Entering this week, the high-flying Warriors are 4-1. They beat 4A giant Bountiful in nonregion action, and they've been playing some of the best soccer in the state.

Just how different has this year felt compared to last year's nightmare?

"It's a huge difference," said junior Derek Jensen. "Winning like we are right now, playing as team — it's a great feeling. Hearing the crowd yell, hearing them go nuts, knowing everyone is working together — it's a great feeling."

Taylorsville officially introduced itself to the prep soccer community back on March 16. That day, it knocked off then No. 1 Bountiful of Class 4A, 3-2.

The Braves had been playing very well going into the match, but behind goals from Jensen, Brady Smith and Mike Trusell, Taylorsville stunned the 4A state finalist of a year ago.

"I think it was a big confidence booster for us. Last year, we came out and won two games the whole season," said Jensen. "We can say it was, we just didn't play. (Or) there were too many egos. We can blame the coach — whatever we want.

"But we just weren't there like we are as a team this year. It seems like everybody's playing for the team. Everybody wants to win. Everybody's stepping their game up."

Thing is, Taylorsville hasn't just been winning. It's been winning in style. Armed with a 3-4-3 formation, which allows for all the attacking players to move around freely, the Warriors have been playing excellent attacking soccer.

First-year coach Patrick Healey installed the system.

"It's not fully my decision (to use the formation)," he said. "It's the way they play. They're good players. I actually inherited a lot of great players. I wish I could take credit for coaching."

Still, there's no denying Healey seems to have turned around the whole attitude of the program.

Though this is his first year as head coach, Healey isn't exactly a stranger to Taylorsville or to coaching. He worked as an assistant coach at Taylorsville for 10 years before, in his words, he "left pursuing money."

That eventually landed him at the state office last year. However, he decided he missed working with the kids, and he began looking around for a place to come back to.

"Three positions came open, and I was very fortunate I was offered this position, along with another," he said. "And I chose to come here. It's been the right choice all the way. Everyone at Taylorsville knows me, knows my weaknesses. And I know theirs."

Now the focus shifts to the rest of the season. Beating Bountiful was massive, but bigger games against Jordan, Alta and Brighton loom on the Region 2 calendar.

Those three schools have all been dominant forces in Utah soccer for some time, and the Warriors know how difficult it will be to get results against them.

But they have confidence.

"I know we can surprise them, actually," said Jensen. "They came out and beat us last year — 9-1, 7-0 — just blowouts. We all know that's how we came out and played, so (there are) just little things that we know we can do better.

"We know we can beat them," Jensen added. "We're there. So long as we keep playing as a team, we're going to surprise a lot of people."

Region 2 boys soccer

(Coaches' predicted order of finish)

1. ALTA: Heading into this week, the Hawks' 2007 prospectus remains somewhat of an unknown. Alta has only played twice in the opening three weeks, losing both times. The Hawks face a three-game set at a tournament in Alabama this weekend before returning for the start of Region 2. Two-time all-state forward GarrettLosee returns and will be the team's anchor. Aside from him, however, there were lots of holes vacated from the championship-winning side of a year ago. In addition to Losee, CurtisMessam and RichardHarrison are also back. 2006 RECORD: 17-1-2. PLAYOFFS: Won state championship.

2. BRIGHTON: Like Alta, this squad has been breaking in a number of new varsity performers. And like their arch-rival, expect the Bengals to be tough by the end of the season. Stopper AdamBullough, a first-team All-Stater in 2006, will help lead the way. To complement him and other players, coach RussBoyer started the season in an unusual 3-5-2 formation. MikeNielsen, ClaytonAlexander, TravisBarton and JustinLatimer each played significant minutes last year. 2006 RECORD: 17-2-1. PLAYOFFS: Lost in state final.

3. SKYLINE: Central midfielder MaxMalmquist is back, and the talented senior will lead the way for the Eagles. Under the direction of first-year coach BryceBunting, Skyline will aim to qualify for the postseason again. Of course, getting there in what appears to be a very deep region will be difficult. But with Malmquist and others anchoring the side, the Eagles will definitely be in the mix. 2006 RECORD: 5-7-3. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.

4. JORDAN: Region 2 coaches voted the Beetdiggers as the No. 4 team back in the preseason. Oops. While Jordan must still prove itself against top-level sides, this group has undoubtedly been the class of Class 5A in the opening month. In forward JakeHustedt, midfielder MarcoAngelo and defender AlexBlaisdell, the 'Diggers have an all-state caliber player to lead each area of the field. And there are lots of talented players surrounding those three. Jordan won't say this, but it's pretty clear it's aching for the chance to knock off rivals Alta and Brighton in Region 2 action. 2006 RECORD: 7-7-1. PLAYOFFS: Lost in first round.

5. HILLCREST: Through the first four games of its preseason, this group went 2-2. In a 3-1 win over Dixie in St. George, JordanButterfield, KipCritchlow and BrandonLarsen each found the back of the net. The Huskies struggled mightily in Region 2 action a season ago, though they were in all of their games up until the last week of the season. Expect them to be a tricky test for league foes again in 2007, and Hillcrest could be capable of taking down any unprepared opponents. 2006 RECORD: 4-12. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

6. TAYLORSVILLE: Through the first month of the season, Taylorsville has easily been the surprise team of the state. 2-12-1 a year ago, they've shown signs of being good enough to contend for a Region 2 championship in 2007. The Warriors beat 4A power Bountiful in the preseason and have been playing some of the most attractive soccer of anyone. DerekJensen, BradySmith and MikeTrussell are among Taylorsville's starters. 2006 RECORD: 2-12-1. PLAYOFFS: Did not qualify.

E-mail: drasmussen@desnews.com