HACKETTSTOWN -- The Hackettstown boys soccer team is not satisfied with one big year.
With the program's first Hunterdon Warren Sussex tournament title and a North 2, Group 2 sectional crown in tow, the Tigers know that level of success is the new expectation and new normal moving forward.
"The thing that we need to know is that mentally that's not going to be it," Tigers head coach Matt DeMartini said. "That's where we need to be at every single season. That's not just a once-in-a-lifetime kind of deal. The same thing with winning the section.
"Once you win the section, everyone expects you to do it. That's how we approach this season. Mentally, going into it we know that we have the talent to make another run."
While the Tigers, who finished last season 18-5-1, were able to shock a handful of teams a season ago such as perennial powerhouse Harrison in the North 2, Group 2 final and Hunterdon Central in the HWS semifinals, they know that there won't be any sneaking up on any team this season either.
The climb will be that much tougher this season.
The target is now on Hackettstown's back. The Tigers will get each opponent's best shot this season.
It’s part of their new reality.
"I don't think we really think about it, we just take it one game at a time," said Tyler Gorczyca, Tigers senior midfielder and reigning Herald Player of the Year. "Whatever happens happens. We're going to do our best every game, come out and play like it's our last. I think that's our mentality going through the year."
Hackettstown has already lost a pair of one-goal games to Newton and Jefferson in the early going. The Tigers are 2-2-1 to open the season.
But with the same focus and drive as last season, the Tigers are hoping their lofty goals can come into their sights.
To continue to play at that high level, they must make up for the loss of their entire midfield from last season, led by Shayne Davies, Sammy Giraldo and Eleazar Diaz.
The trio was a major offensive force for Hackettstown. Davies led the way with nine goals and 15 assists, Giraldo scored a pair of goals in their sectional semifinal win over Caldwell and assisted on Chase Reardon's HWS-clinching goal. Diaz, meanwhile, was a master with the ball at his feet.
DeMartini has filled that void by bringing Gorczyca forward from the back line, Reardon in from the outside and Carlton Prant back from the forward position. Reardon scored eight goals and added six assists as a freshman.
The Tigers' balanced lineup gives the Hackettstown head coach the novelty of being able to adjust on the fly depending on the opponent.
"In the past years, we've had one formation that we like to run and have everyone get used to," DeMartini said. "This year is a little bit different, where we have two or three formations we can run at any time depending on the team where playing if we have to make changes.
"It's a really unique team that we have right now with a lot of skill players that can play anywhere at any time."
DeMartini said he preaches that everyone on the team has a job and it's as important for his players to know their own roles as it is to know the responsibilities of their teammates.
Nick O'Melia and Kevin Colorado return to the back line that was one of the most formidable units in northern New Jersey last season. Connor Maciejczyk, Zack Prymak and Matt White will find spots on the defense.
Isaac Javier and Jacob Weiss bring pace along the wings, while Michael Medik and Ben Smith will look to provide a scoring punch for the Tigers.
"I think it's really important to find our sense of continuity, our chemistry," O'Melia said. "A lot of the guys have been kind of frustrated throughout the preseason in their new positions, but as time has gone on, as we've scrimmaged, they've gotten used to it, gotten the hang of it and I think we're ready to go."
While the Tigers know it's important to move on from last season's success, the returners also realize that the experience that they carry with them can help them moving forward this season.
"It also gives us an understanding of what we're getting into it," Prant said. "If we do get into that situation in with the HWS or a state sectional final, we know what we're going into and we have to be mentally and physically prepared for it. It definitely helps us out."
The Tigers are still building this season’s identity, but they are also hungry to get back to playing at the level they reached a season ago.
After all, their new reality is anything less than great is falling short.
"I know the returners from last year, they know what it's like," DeMartini said. "They got a taste of it. They want more. We want to win the whole thing this year."