COACH Michael Devaney (13th season at Bentonville; 130-74-17 overall)
LAST YEAR’S RECORD 16-5-1 overall, 9-5 7A-West (third in conference; won state title)
KEY PLAYERS MF Jose Castro (Sr.); D Zach Fields (Sr., team co-captain); D Tucker Minor (Sr. Co-Captain); MF Bruno Mariscotti (Sr.)
TOP NEWCOMERS F Miguel Witches (Sr.), MF Xavier Serrano (Jr.)
THE SKINNY The situation is nothing new for Devaney or the Tigers. For the past two seasons, he’s seen graduation deplete a state championship team, yet he finds a way to take those returning players and mixes in a few younger players, then turns them into a winning combination. This spring will be no different, but there is a different twist.
Bentonville picks up a player like Castro, who returns to the team for his senior season after playing two years for FC Dallas, and the Tigers pick up a quality forward in Witches — an exchange student from Columbia — who will help out immediately.
The most pressure, though, may be on Davis Hogue, who will be the person called upon to replace a three-time all-state player in Ben Barron at goalkeeper. Hogue, however, does have experience as he started in the net in a match against Rogers, and Bentonville won on penalty kicks.
The only other missing is nonconference matches in the Tigers’ schedule. Devaney said he tried to find other opponents and was unsuccessful.
KEY DATES March 10 — Tigers open the season vs. Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe in the NWA Showcase. Bentonville will also play Mustang, Okla., and Little Rock Central that weekend. March 14 — 7A-West Conference opener at Fayetteville; March 17 — first home match of the season vs. Van Buren; March 31 — a road match against Springdale High in a rematch of last year’s state championship.