Each fall when the boys soccer season starts, coach Rob Bohlmann knows there is only one thing that is certain:
"Every year is different. I've been doing this for a long time, and I know that no two teams are alike."
He wasn't disappointed when he arrived at the team's first practice Monday.
This year's team is sure to have a different look. Of the 30 players who showed up for practice, there were only four seniors, two starters and five players who saw any significant playing time in 2003.
But that hasn't dampened the Sailors' expectations for the season.
"We have a clear-cut goal," Bohlmann said. "That goal is to win the Western Slope League title."
After winning the league title for six straight years, Steamboat has fallen short the past two seasons. Steamboat tied for the title in 2002 and finished second in the Western Slope last year.
This year, the team, which is led by Alec Nelson, Danny Carlson, Jordan Gray, David Comeau, Chris Troeger and Neal Ficker, has made it its goal to bring the title back to Steamboat.
To do it, the Sailors will need some help from a core of younger players with limited varsity experience.
"I'm excited about this season," Nelson said. "We've got a lot of really young players, but we've got a lot of talent."
Because Steamboat lost a large core of senior players last season, Nelson doesn't think other teams in the league will be looking to the Sailors to contend for a title this season. But he isn't letting that lower his expectations.
"I think we will surprise some people in the league," Nelson said. "We have a strong group of young players, so there is no telling how far we can go."
Going into the season, Bohlmann said he thinks Battle Mountain is the team to beat in the Western Slope. He also predicts that Glenwood and Rifle will be tough once again. However, he said the Western Slope is always a hard league to predict and that he is expecting more than a few upsets during the league season.
He said teams need to be ready to play every week if they want to win the title.
"We are not going to be the fastest or the strongest team," Bohlmann said. "But this team has so much passion. That will be our strength this season."