GARDEN CORNERS - There are plenty of familiar faces on the soccer field at Big Bay de Noc as it prepares to open its season.
Big Bay, with 14 on its roster, visits Bayside Soccer Club Saturday for a 1 p.m. match at Bay College.
Gone through graduation from last year's 5-15-2 squad are forward/midfielder Ryan Minor, forward Levi Tatrow, midfielders Jordyn Bradshaw and Shiloh Labutte and backfielder Holly Severin.
Big Bay returns four seniors. They are goalkeeper Alex Ranguette and midfielders John Green, Isaac Cooper and Sam Furman.
"I've been at Big Bay since 2006, and every year we've had a Ranguette in goal," said coach Gary Sporer. "But that's going to end after this season, which is going to seem kind of strange next year."
Returning juniors are forwards Bryce Thompson, Matt Moore and Brett LaLonde.
Aug. 24 - at Escanaba.
Sept. 5 - at Marquette jayvees; Sept. 12 - at Kingsford; Sept. 14 - Escanaba; Sept. 21 - Big Bay de Noc Invitational; Sept. 24 - at Iron Mountain; Sept. 27 - Copper Country Christian.
Oct. 3 - at Hannahville; Oct. 5 - at Sault Ste. Marie; Oct. 8 - Marquette jayvees; Oct. 10 - Kingsford; Oct. 12 - at Marquette jayvees; Oct. 15 - at Manistique; Oct. 19 - at Copper Country Christian; Oct. 21 - Hannahville.
"We have some experience in the midfield and at forward," said Sporer. "We also have some fast guys (Moore and LaLonde) up front. Matt and Brett are difficult players to read because they're able to change the pace very quickly."
Returning on defense are sophomores Ilana Cooper and Erin Kurth.
"I think our main strength is we're very strong defensively," said Sporer. "Our kids make it very difficult for anyone to get free. We keep coming in waves and recover quickly on defense. We like to provide the type of defense which works in layers and slows down the attack (by opposing teams). If we can do that, we know our goalkeeper will have time to react."
The Black Bears, however, need to work on their offense, according to Sporer.
"We need to improve our shot percentage and capitalize on our opportunities," he said. "We also have to be patient. Ball control is very important for us. We can't afford to burn ourselves out early in the match."
After Saturday's opener, Big Bay is idle until Sept. 5 when it visits the Marquette jayvees.
"We have a couple openings on our schedule and hope to add a few more matches once school starts," said Sporer. "We're also hoping to pick up a few more players. This could be an interesting year. We'll be ready. I think our experience will help us succeed this year."