The Trapper men, who started practice Monday, return to the pitch for a preseason match in Great Falls, Mont., on Saturday and open their regular season at home Aug. 29 against Eastern Utah.
Hill said he will probably pick two completely different squads of 11 to start each half against Great Falls.
“It’s a good problem to have,” Hill said.
The coach’s bevy of options stems from a 25-man roster that features only seven returning sophomores.
“There’s a big freshmen class but we’ve got a couple internationals on there who really have the experience of a sophomore,” Hill said. “These players are high caliber. They’re used to high-level competition, they’ve played in big tournaments. They’re experienced.”
Hill was understandably excited about his recruiting class before they reported to Northwest. Now that he’s seen them train, his optimism has increased another level.
“Already I’ve been surprised by some of the recruits,” Hill said. “I thought they were good, obviously, but they’ve been even better than I thought.”
Northwest’s sophomores have appeared to learn what it takes to succeed in college soccer and have put in the extra time to improve.
“Some of the sophomores that weren’t getting much playing time last year, I’m amazed at what they’re doing in training to come back different people,” Hill said. “They’re already night and day different than they were last year.”
Last year’s Trappers (8-8-3 overall, 5-2-3 conference) had strong starting talent, but lacked the depth needed to minimize the impact of injuries, something Hill hopes this year’s version of the Trappers can avoid.
“Now we just want to keep everyone healthy,” Hill said.
Sophomore goalkeeper Erik Wehse returns in top form after struggling with a concussion and ankle sprain in 2013.
“He’s as sharp as ever,” Hill said. “He’s really hungry and focused. He did a lot of training in the offseason; he never wants to be off the practice field.”
Saturday’s friendly game against the Argos will give the Trappers a chance to play together for the first time and Hill a chance to assess his team against the competition of a four-year school.
“(The Argos) are going to play very, very well and not going to hold back,” Hill said. “(The Trappers are) going to be playing against bigger, stronger guys who have been together a long time.”
It will be up to the Trappers, old and new, to prove themselves worthy of taking one of the 11 starting jobs.
Hill isn’t looking just for the most talented players, but the right mix that helps Northwest succeed as a team.
With so few starting jobs spoken for, Northwest has a lot of questions to answer.
“For us it’s what combination of players works well together, seeing who links with who,” Hill said.
“Who works well together in the back?” he asked rhetorically. “Who’s a good center-back combination? Who works well on the wings together? Do we have two or three strikers?”
Hill plucked his American recruits largely from Portland, Ore., and Colorado while international players from England, Ireland and Germany have landed stateside to help the Trappers.
“There’s a whole slough of different players here,” Hill said. “Start of the year is always exciting — figuring out whose strength is where.”