NIWOT — Over the last 20 years people have come to expect a certain quality of play from the Niwot soccer program.
From coaches Cotton Burden to Jeremy Drake and Rob Johnson to now Steve Dimit, the Cougars have found ways to re-invent themselves on a yearly basis while producing results and making deep playoff pushes.
Graduation hit Niwot hard in 2016 and gone are all-region selection Justin Barkow, Mark Ramirez and Jon Wegleitner; but in step players that have been waiting their turn and are eager to prove their worth.
"I think everyone was a little uncertain coming out of last year with so many top level players graduating and so few starters coming back," said Dimit, who comes to Niwot after a very successful stint at Colorado Springs' Vista Ridge High School.
"Plus with a new coach, what is all of this going to look like? The guys have been working hard this summer and adapting to a new culture."
Over time there has been a style of play that has been almost expected out of a Niwot program and that won't change under Dimit — a combination of the rugged possession-based English style mixed with the beauty and openness of the Spanish style in which creativity is a must.
The onus will be on the midfielders — Brian Oates, Duncan McCabe and Andres Montealegre to name a few — to dictate the Cougars game.
"The end goal offensively is more open and free flying that's for sure," said Dimit, a Sterling graduate that was eager to get back to northern Colorado. "It's very possession based with the mindset that we always want to get forward.
"I guess it is only direct when it has to be."
Barkow and Ramirez accounted for 54 goals last season and assisted on 37 others, so finding a way to replace that will also be vitally important to the Cougars' success.
Dimit's teams in the past have been able to spread the offensive wealth and with the amount of youthful talent at his disposal, fresh legs and depth will not be a problem.
"We certainly put an onus on team defense across the field so that we can play that way," he said. "And so that everyone has a chance to be involved offensively.
"There are a of of guys that have been working hard for several years now for their shot. And now that they can see it, I think they are taking every opportunity that is coming their way."
It is a schedule that sets up well for the Cougars too. They will be among the favorites in the Northern League, along with Longmont, and have a nonleague set that should help them score well in the new RPI system adopted by the CHSAA that rewards points based on performance against quality opponents.
Included on that schedule is a postseason rematch with Standley Lake in mid September. The Gators went to Niwot last season and stunned the Cougars in the second round.
"With the new system, it is really vital that you win every game that you are supposed too," Dimit said. "And I feel like we have a lot more of those than we have ones we are supposed to lose.
"I don't want to over-stress the outcome because every game we are going to look to be getting better regardless of what the score says."