Having scaled the mountaintop of boys' soccer last year, Henry Clay now has the task of trying not to fall off.
The Blue Devils lost their first three matches and four of their first six in 2010, but steadily improved en route to a 19-6-1 season that culminated with a state championship.
Despite losing several key players to graduation, Coach Tim Bernardi thinks he has the pieces needed for another run at the title.
"It's always good to get (to the championship) because I think these guys, they're familiar with what it takes to actually win," Bernardi said. "You look at them in the eyes and you tell them, 'are we where we need to be ... in order to win a state championship?'
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"I think right now we're not. ... But can we get there? I think we can, and I think they know what it takes now to get there."
The Blue Devils, No. 1 in a Herald-Leader poll of city coaches and No. 7 in the state-wide coaches' poll, opened the season Monday night against No. 14 Ryle in the iHigh Fayette County Soccer Frenzy.
The Blue Devils' other opponents in this week's Frenzy are tournament host and 12th-ranked Lafayette, followed by No. 17 Manual.
Then come matches against Lexington Catholic, which received votes but was not ranked in the state poll, and No. 5 Paul Dunbar.
That Murderer's Row is intended to show Bernardi what he does and doesn't have, with time to adjust.
Witness last season, when the Blue Devils went 0-3 while being outscored 8-1 in the Frenzy.
At Dunbar, Coach Todd Bretz is amused that his team is ranked fifth in the state, two spots ahead of Henry Clay. Bretz voted his team fifth in the city.
"I think that's based on last year's team," he said of the state poll. "It's a compliment but, unfortunately, I don't know how accurate it is. ... We lost probably one of the best senior classes we've ever had last year."
Included were nine starters and three often-used substitutes.
As for Henry Clay being No. 7, Bretz said: "I think people thought maybe they graduated more than they did. ... That's not how I had it."
Dunbar opens play Tuesday night in a Frenzy match against No. 10 Male.
Dunbar finished 19-3-3 last year, reaching the State quarterfinals.
If the Bulldogs are to approach that level this time around, Bretz says the key will be the smallest senior class that he's had — midfielder Austin Miller, defenders Todd Montgomery and Kenneth Johnson, and goalkeeper Jon Hurley.
"They're going to have to really step up and provide the leadership and the experience," Bretz said.
The rest of the city poll has Lafayette third, followed by Lexington Catholic, Tates Creek, Lexington Christian, Bryan Station and Sayre.