- Jonus Sabani singlehandedly carved up Great Northern Conference defenses last year.
But Rhinelander High School's star forward won't be back this season, after transferring to Shattuck St. Mary's in Minnesota.
"His lifelong passion is soccer, and that will be the best step for him to reach his goals," Rhinelander head coach Dan Millot said.
Sabani's transfer means the Hodags will re-shape their offense, putting more forwards on the front line instead of having just one striker up top.
"We need to play more as a team and not rely on one player," senior Josh Randolph said. "We need to rely on the whole team to step up and do their job."
Teamwork and conditioning were top of mind for the Hodags, who still have their eyes on the state tournament.
"We're trying to do better than last year, but seeing that we don't have Jonus, we'll see how it goes," senior Matt Van Oepen said. "But the expectations are definitely high."
Players focused specifically on footwork, preparing them to cover more ground instead of feeding the ball upfield.
"The forwards are going to be able to run farther down the line, so we have more people in the middle," Van Oepen said. "Instead of just having one person, we're going to have a greater number of people."
It's all a part of adjusting to life after Jonas.
Rhinelander's first game is August 24, when the Hodags will host an invitational tournament with Iron Mountain, Lakeland Union and Wausau East.
|Story By: Andrew Goldstein