BELOIT - There are two things that can be said about the 2019 Beloit Memorial soccer team: They are talented. And they are young.
The question that will be answered throughout the course of the next couple months is ultimately what will define this season: Can the Purple Knights' talent overcome its lack of varsity experience?
Beloit Memorial coach Brian Denu, in his 11th season at the helm of the program, says the future is bright, even in the present might be a bit uncertain.
"We're going to be a really fun team to watch," Denu said. "We are going to be starting three freshman, so there's going to be obstacles that go along with that. I don't think it's going to be an issue of skill with those three, it's more about size and strength. We're just going to have to play a lot smarter this year to be successful."
The freshman include Baylor Denu (center midfielder), Britton Sala (midfielder) and Tomas Giles (defender).
"This should be the most skilled team we've had since the 2015 team," Denu said. "Britton and Baylor both played for the Rockford Raptors, and the skill level isn't going to be significantly better than what they've faced. The biggest thing is going to be the strength. We've had those kids in the weight room over the summer, but they are going to need two more years of that to match our opponents."
The top returning players are junior Omar Munoz and senior Bernardo Plascencia.
"We used Omar as a center-mid last year and as a striker, but with the kids coming in ready to take over midfield, we feel comfortable that we're going to be able to move him up to forward exclusively," Denu said. "He's going to be a big pain in the backside for opponents. He's fast and extremely skilled. He should be our main scorer this year. And Bernardo played center-mid last year, but it's going to be nice to get him up on the field, too. If the other guys can hold down the fort in the center of the field, those two guys are going to be nearly impossible to stop as a combination."
James Castellanos and Gustavo Salazar will also play midfield, with Castellanos spelling goalie David Almanza when necessary.
"David is 6-foot-3, super athletic and very long," Denu said. "If his head is on straight, he could be one of the best 10 or 15 goalies in the state. He's that good. But sometimes keeping him focused has been a challenge in the past. He's worked very hard this summer and so far in practice, so I'm optimistic about him."
The rugged Big Eight will be just as difficult as usual.
"Verona went 7-0-1 last year and they only lost one starter," Denu said. "So they will be the favorite to win it. Sun Prairie, Middleton, Madison West and Madison East will all be solid. Everybody else kind of fits in after that. I think Craig is going to be stronger than they have been in the past. It's going to be real exciting this year. I think we're going to be much stronger offensively this year, and if we have to win some shootouts this year, we've got the manpower to do that."
The Knights will scrimmage Saturday in Kenosha before opening their season Tuesday at Waukesha North.