With young team, coach looks to building a strong foundation
By Dan Truttschel
A familiar face has returned – for the third time – to lead the East Troy High School boys soccer team in 2014.
Nick Datka, who was the head coach from 2001 to 2004 and from 2008 to 2011, is back at the helm this fall. He replaces former coach Mike Bottum, who resigned after last season.
Datka, a 1996 East Troy graduate, said the timing was right to jump back into coaching.
“I was looking to get back into coaching,” he said. “It just made sense is the best way to put it. It’s an opportunity to build (something) again.”
This year’s soccer team can be described in one word: young.
The roster includes 22 players and just one senior in defender Alex Wade. Juniors on the team are Lucas Bottum (midfielder-defender), Adam Wells (midfielder-defender) and Ryan Griffa (goalie).
After that, the roster is filled with 10 sophomores and eight freshmen. East Troy will field just a varsity squad in 2014.
“We’re very, very young,” Datka said. “As far as wins and losses, it’s been a little tough here in the early going, but with such a young roster, you’re going to go through a few growing pains and some bumps in the road. Hopefully the road will smooth out as the trip gets going.”
Because of the youth and inexperience this fall, Datka said he’s not ready to set tangible goals for his team to reach.
Instead, he wants to build a strong foundation as the Trojans look to the future.
“My goal this year is to progress through the season and continue to build for the future,” he said. “I kind of divided the year into two halves.
“We have before Labor Day, where I want to get familiar with the players and them with me. Once we get through the whole Labor Day thing, we can make a push to fine tune things and progress through the year.”
Datka said he will rely on the four veterans he does have to help bring the team along as well.
“You’re looking for those kids to be leaders and mentors for the players, but at the same time, you’re looking for those players to be committed and be positive role models and not get discouraged themselves,” he said.
Finding a strength in skill level alone continues to be a work in progress, Datka said, but one thing he has been impressed with has been his team’s overall work ethic.
This group seems anxious and ready to learn and improve, and that’s certainly a good place to start, he said.
“This is probably the hardest-working team I’ve ever coached,” Datka said. “They talk about showing up and giving 120 percent every day. They deserve to be successful because of the amount of time and energy they’ve put into it.
“With that work ethic, if they continue to grow, I think they’ll be successful in the long run.”
Looking at the Rock Valley Conference, Datka expects Whitewater, Evansville and Big Foot-Williams Bay to be among the teams to watch. McFarland was a state qualifier a year ago but lost several key players to graduation.
Where the Trojans may finish remains to be seen, Datka said.
“I just want to progress through the season,” he said.
Season off and running
East Troy took a 0-4 record into action this week. The Trojans fell 3-0 to Lake Mills, 5-0 to Jefferson, 2-1 to Wisconsin Lutheran and 4-0 to Union Grove.
The Trojans were back in action Tuesday at Waterford before they open conference play Thursday against visiting McFarland at 5:15 p.m.