Heading into last season, the Smyrna boys soccer program had struggled, however, after big improvements last season, the Eagles head into the new season with some optimism.

If the Eagles hope to cash in on that optimism they’ll have to pass several challenges throughout the season.

One of those challenges is in-house, as the players look to rise to the level of some of their Smyrna counterparts.

“There’s a little bit of pressure due to the success of all the other programs over the last few years,” said Smyrna Head Coach Adam Martin. “Overall, we want to stay competitive and improve every season.”

The Eagles’ 8-6-1 finish in 2017 was their first winning season since finishing 9-6 in 2009. Another challenge standing between the Eagles and duplicating, or even surpassing, last year’s record will be navigating their way through the Henlopen Conference where a large portion of state’s talent resides.

When it comes to talent, the challenge of forming this year’s roster was a difficult one, as always, for Martin and his staff.

However, even after losing six seniors Martin believes this year’s team has the talent to compete even if they aren’t as loaded as others in the conference.

“Every year I hope to see at least 12 new faces,” Martin said. “I’m sure every coach would like to have a large pool of players to choose from. The larger the group, the more difficult and careful you need to be when making your cuts. You want players that will give you their all and work hard for you the whole season.”

After improving their win total by five in 2017, the Eagles are challenged with a new set of expectations, ones that may not have been relevant in recent years. Though, Martin and his team aren’t necessarily paying attention to the outside noise, only focused on what they can control each day.

“My coaching staff and I will be looking to have an educated group this season,” Martin said. “Hopefully the players will know their duties and responsibilities before the first official game of the season.”

Smyrna’s season opens Friday, Sept. 7 on the road at Concord at 3:30 p.m. The Eagles will play their first home game Tuesday, Sept. 11 against Woodbridge at 6 p.m.