District lines aren’t the only new thing in high school soccer this season.
As most programs around the state are adjusting to new districts, several programs in the Baton Rouge area are welcoming new head coaches to their sidelines as well.
“It’s exciting for sure,” said newly appointed Catholic High coach Josh McReynolds, one of at least 10 new coaches in the metro area. “Any time you can go up against a coach you haven’t coached against before, it’s exciting.”
McReynolds was an assistant coach with the Bears for the past three years under former coach Bo Cassidy, who last season led Catholic to a No. 5 seed in the Division I playoffs before losing to Sulphur in the second round.
The Bears’ coach said the “hallmarks of Catholic High” will remain the same under his management, and already knowing his team from his time as an assistant is a big advantage to continuing that success.
The McReynolds era will also be the first to see the Bears on a new field, an artificial turf surface at the school. The team previously played its games at the Burbank Soccer Complex.
Catholic made the switch to District 3 in realignment, but its old stomping grounds will see a few new faces with Dutchtown introducing Rene Bourgeois as only the second coach for the Griffins. Across town, Michael Zanco will take the reins at East Ascension.
This season, the Bears will have to compete with defending District 4 champion Denham Springs in the newly formed District 3.
“The challenge for us this season is trying to take that next step across the state,” McReynolds said. “We’re always one of the top 10 teams in the state, but we’re trying to get over the hump once we get into the playoffs.”
While McReynolds said he’s keeping the identity of Catholic relatively the same, Zachary coach Kyle Callihan is shaking up the Broncos in his first season as head coach.
Callihan — who also makes the jump from assistant — said he’s switching Zachary to a 5-4-1 formation in the hopes of utilizing the team’s speed in the offensive third of the field.
The caveat to his plan: He’s only giving himself two weeks into the regular season to see improvement, or it’s back to the ways that got the Broncos to a second-place finish in the former District 4 behind Denham Springs. Zachary is in the new District 3 with Catholic.
“If they’re not having fun with it and it’s kind of blowing their minds, I don’t want them to go through all year with us going ‘Come on, guys,’ ” Callihan said. “I don’t want to keep drilling this thing that doesn’t resonate with them.”
No new coach will have more lumped onto his plate this year than Lutcher’s Alberto Lopez. The first-time coach will handle both the boys and girls programs at the Division III school.
The Bulldogd boys finished second in District 5 behind St. Michael last season, while the girls tied the Warriors for the title. The realignment for the boys team leaves them in division III, District 7 with reigning Division II state champion Vandebilt Catholic.
“I just want to focus on getting to know the players, how they are, how they work,” Lopez said. “I need to adapt to that, and they need to adapt to me and my way of coaching and the style that I like to coach.
“I like to play more of a defensive style. I like to attack with my center back and outside backs.”