BELLEVILLE — A memorable 2012 season didn't end the way the Belleville West boys soccer team would have preferred.
The Maroons finished 18-4-1 overall and won their first Southwestern Conference championship, but lost 1-0 to O'Fallon in the title game of the Class 3A Collinsville Regional.
"It was sweet to win the conference," Maroons coach Rob Thornberry said. "The regional final didn't go our way, but we were able to walk away with the conference title. Those guys were definitely deserving. We're excited to have another chance at it."
The Maroons return five starters, but will be without their two leading scorers. Sean Gouveia (13 goals, 11 assists), a sophomore, opted to play club soccer. Jesse Jordan (10 goals, 10 assists), the Belleville News-Democrat's Player of the Year, graduated.
Thornberry doesn't know whether Gouveia will return to the Maroons for his junior or senior seasons.
"I'm not sure how it works, but I think if he commits to a college, we might see him (here) in the future. We can only hope," Thornberry said. "He was a total package. He was a good student (and) he had good character. He did it all on the soccer field, too."
Responsibility for replacing the lost offense will fall to senior midfielder Todd Seibert, senior forward Howard Thomas and junior forward Lucas McCarty. Seibert had six goals and four assists last season, ranking third on the team in scoring.
"He's very creative and dangerous," Thornberry said. "Todd will have a little more pressure on him to score this year."
Thomas didn't play last season, but Thornberry anticipates he and McCarty will pose problems for defenses.
"He's got great size, strength and speed," Thornberry said of Thomas. "We're going to run him on top, so I'm excited to see what Howard can contribute. Lucas McCarty has refined his skills, so he's another one we're going to look for to score goals from the striker position."
In addition to Seibert, other returning starters are senior midfielder Ian Mayr, junior defenders Matt Klosterman and Keaton Cheffer, and junior goalkeeper Nate Petrekovich. Mayr, who had four goals and two assists last year, is recovering from a broken wrist and Thornberry said he could be sidelined another two weeks.
Petrekovich had eight shutouts, a 0.74 goals-against average and 108 saves last season.
"He had a tremendous season last year as a sophomore," Thornberry said. "We're really lucky Nate's back. Every year, he's gotten better. He showed a lot of promise as a freshman, but he won the spot last year and he's still got it."
Senior Josh Freivogel will serve as the backup goalie, but Thornberry said Freivogel's main role will be as a wing midfielder.
"He is fleet-footed," Thornberry said. "He's got wheels, so we're excited to see how that works out."
Thornberry said senior midfielder Brent Lehr is back as "another speedster on the wings" after missing most of last season with a broken toe.
"We've got good speed on the wings, we've got good speed on top and I think we definitely have some creative players in the center of the park. I think we'll be an exciting team to watch."
Other players are: senior defenders Austin O'Saben and Brandon Miller; senior midfielders/defenders Josh Sommers and Andrew McEvilly; senior midfielder George Kinder; junior midfielders Sam Kaeser, Hunter Siebers, Christian Holloman and J.D. Bass; junior defender Justin Sweeney; and sophomore defender Nick Harry.
"We're going to use 15, 16 players," Thornberry said. "We've got some question marks; we've got some unanswered questions. We've got some spots to be won, basically."
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.