Hounds facing stiffer competition this spring

Looking to build on 12-6 season

FORT MADISON - The two weeks of practice heading into Tuesday’s season opener have been about finding answers for Fort Madison boys soccer coach Kevin Wellman.
It’s been an ongoing search.
“We lost seven seniors, and we’re trying to figure out who to put in those positions,” Wellman said. “We answer a question, and that produces two more questions that we have to answer. We’re still trying to figure everything out.”
Fort Madison went 14-6 last season, and swept through the Southeast Conference, winning the title with a 10-0 record.
The biggest rebuild for this team will be on the defensive end.
“We lost three-fourths of our defense, and so that’s where we’ve been really working to try to find answers,” Wellman said.
The Bloodhounds will still have a potent offense, especially as Xander Wellman and Jacob Pothitakis continue their comeback from injuries suffered during last season. Both have been cleared to practice.
“We’re going to start working them in,” Kevin Wellman said. “They’ve been dealing with some slight muscle pulls, so we’re working them in slowly. I don’t know what their fitness is going to be like, whether they can go for long periods of time, so we’ll take it slow with them. Hopefully they’re peaking in May, when we get ready for the postseason.”
Xander Wellman led the Bloodhounds with 14 goals last season. But Kevin Wellman likes what he sees out of Leif Boeding, who had 13 goals last season, and Henry Graham, who had nine goals.
“Henry has made huge strides from last season,” Wellman said. “And Leif has made a jump in his athleticism. He’s in his third sport this season, so he’s ready to go.”
The Bloodhounds will be in Class 3A this season as the sport expands to four classes. They’re still in the same class with Pella, which has eliminated them in the substate tournament the last two seasons.
“Pella is still there, and now we’re in with Iowa City Liberty, (Cedar Rapids) Xavier, those type of schools,” Wellman said. “So we have to be ready.”
Wellman expects conference play to be stronger this season, and the Bloodhounds’ nonconference schedule includes Tuesday’s opener with Williamsburg and a tournament with Pella, ADM and Hudson.
“So we’re going to be challenged, but we’ve always had that,” Wellman said.
It’s why Wellman said Tuesday’s opener is so important.
“We’ve got work to do. But we’ve got work to do from Game 1,” he said. “I’m expecting to play against a very strong team on Tuesday. We’ll have a much better idea on what we look like, what our chemistry is looking like, things like that. You just can’t tell with practice.”
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