Apr. 3—John Fuller took over the newly-formed Central Iowa United boys' soccer team on Feb. 20 of 2020. That wasn't enough time to get the program on solid ground. He couldn't hold many open gyms before the season started.
Fuller truly didn't know what he had at that time. And eventually, the season was canceled because of COVID-19.
Fast forward to now, and a more than year-long pandemic has still altered the program.
"Unfortunately with COVID and five schools participating in the program, I did not have open gyms this offseason either," said Fuller, who was a volunteer assistant for the boys' and girls' soccer programs at Collins-Maxwell before taking over for the CIU boys last February. "I did not want to risk the basketball programs as they were finishing their season. Also, I wanted to wait until I was fully vaccinated before having closer contact with this many kids."
The CIU soccer programs are made up for players from Baxter, Colfax-Mingo, Collins-Maxwell, West Marshall and Colo-NESCO.
Fuller also started the season without an assistant coach but Danny Beattie did join the program as a volunteer assistant a few weeks ago.
Fuller still has to figure out what he has on the pitch and a lot of questions are still not answered yet. But he hopes to lean on his juniors and seniors for leadership and experience.
The only two seniors on the roster, Sean Finch and Jacob Bogle, are from Baxter. Junior Tanner Scroggins, also from Baxter, is the front runner to play goalie this season, too.
The roster includes 20 players, nine of which are freshmen. There are six juniors and three sophomores.
"Many of the juniors and seniors played in fall recreation leagues so I expect a lot from them," Fuller said. "We'll just see who can find the back of the net this year. I really want to focus on having better chances in the attacking third as well as train the backs to not allow good opportunities in the defensive third."
Bogle is the top returning point scorer. He made 19 starts and scored six points with two goals and two assists as a sophomore. Finch made nine starts and finished with one assist two seasons ago.
Scroggins scored one goal and made two starts as a freshman. Joseph Butcher, a junior from Collins-Maxwell, started 19 matches in 2019. That squad, which went under the Collins-Maxwell name, went 3-15 that season.
"I do have some experience on the back four and hopefully their leadership can help some of the new players fit in quickly," Fuller said.
Colfax-Mingo's lone player on the team this is freshman Curtis Horras. Baxter freshmen Treyton Travis and Ben Richardson also are out. Travis will dual sport this spring with track and field.
"Obviously a lot of kids are way behind on soccer training in the state," Fuller said. "The six juniors really could have used last year as an important development year. We need to work on the basics and hope they all come back next year as much much experienced players."
Colfax-Mingo had a sharing agreement with PCM recently, but the Mustangs went in another direction during after the 2019 season. Colfax-Mingo joined the already formed team at Collins-Maxwell and the program re-branded to Central Iowa United.
Fuller also spent time at Boone as an assistant coach and was the Colo-NESCO girls' soccer coach for six years.