HELENA — Doug Mello has spent nearly a half century on the sidelines coaching college soccer.
Forty-four years to be exact.
And as he stood on the sidelines of the Carroll College practice field on Friday morning to watch his team play an intramural scrimmage, he made sure not to settle for mediocre.
“If it goes to to that point, that’s the time for me to pack up and maybe do more spectating than coaching,” Mello said.
Since arriving at Helena when the program started up in 2014, Mello has averaged eight wins per season, most recently last year, taking the Saints to the semifinals of the Cascade Collegiate Conference.
And this season is no different.
“We definitely expect to make the Cascade Tournament and aspire to win the conference and get into the National Tournament,” Mello said. “With hard work, it’s a possibility.”
The Saints might have graduated their top two goal scorers in Javi Porras and Terry Cox, but Mello said there are definitely a lot of things to be excited about.
“We have a very talented group of incoming players,” Mello said. “I think we had a nice year last year and this group is talented to improve upon that.”
One newcomer includes Icelandic midfielder Birgir Gauti Stefánsson.
Prior to arriving at Carroll, Stefánsson played with Iceland’s national team during the Reykjavik Cup against Norwitch City F.C.’s professional U16 team.
“Iceland is world-renowned for their development of youth players," Mello said earlier this summer. “Birgir had opportunities to play Division I and chose Carroll for the bond we developed in the recruiting process and our high overall academics.”
Another scoring option could be freshman forward Rory Bloy.
A native of Johannesburg, South Africa, Bloy caught Mello's eye while playing at the Mayor’s Cup in Las Vegas.
Before that, Bloy played with Florida Albion FC.
“He is a goal scorer galore,” Mello said. “We are really excited about his talent around the goal.”
While the Saints have some new faces, Mello said he will need everybody to chip in. Last year, Carroll finished the season ranked tied for fourth out of 14 CCC teams in goals scored.
On the defensive side, Mello said they also added 6-foot-3 goalkeeper Melle de Reuver from Holland.
“He made some nice plays today,” Mello said.
Carroll starts its season in less than a week when it hosts the University of Lethbridge at Nelson Stadium on Wednesday, but Mello prefers it that way.
“The longer you go, the more antsy the players get,” Mello said. “We are going to play a lot of guys, but Lethbridge will be a good test for us.”
Mello is now entering his sixth season with the Saints, and with a total 44 years under his belt, he said there is still room for three or four more.
As long as there is excitement.
“You might have to push me around and hear me rant and rave from there. Who knows?” Mello said. “We have a ways to go, but I’m committed in being here.”