First-year St. Monica High School football coach Chris Caminiti is hoping that it will be a season of improvement for the Mariners, who are coming off a struggling season last year.

The Mariners struggled with injuries to players throughout last season, which affected their ability to be competitive, he said.

After picking up a victory over Bishop Montgomery High School in the opening game last year, St. Monica lost its next nine games to finish last in the Camino Real League with a 1-9 overall record.

Caminiti, who replaces former Mariners coach Jason Strouse, said that while last year’s players faced a “tremendous amount of injuries,” some of their troubles were due to a lack of weight training.

As the Mariners enter a new season, they will focus on staying healthy throughout the year, Caminiti said.

But most important, St. Monica, which is a smaller school than most of its opponents, wants to be a competitive team, he said.

“We want to compete — last year’s team was non-competitive,” he said. “We’re hoping for improvements.”

The new coach is looking to rebuild the St. Monica program this year and he started by implementing a strength and conditioning program in the spring.

“There is a rebuilding process that needs to take place,” Caminiti said. “We had a very intense off-season in the weight room.”

Some returning senior players who are expected to lead the team this season are quarterback David Aiello, wide receiver Anthony Flores and running back Steven Bell, who will also step in at linebacker.

Caminiti also expects several young players to contribute, as he plans to start four sophomores on offense and five sophomores on defense.

Many of the players competed at the junior varsity level last season but had the opportunity to get some varsity experience toward the end of the season.

The team will play its first five games of the season at a visiting field and will open against Bishop Montgomery High School at 7 p.m. Friday, September 8th.

In another anticipated non-league game Friday, September 29th, St. Monica will face cross-town opponent Santa Monica High School at Santa Monica College Corsair Field.

The Mariners took the first battle against Santa Monica three years ago, but the Vikings have won the last two meetings.

St. Monica won’t have its first home game until Friday, October 13th, when it opens the Camino Real League season against Mary Star of the Sea High School.

As the Mariners work to make improvements over the season, they will focus on controlling the ball and controlling the clock to limit the opportunities for their opponents, Caminiti said.

The key to success for St. Monica will be its ability to execute, limit penalties and prevent turnovers, he said.