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Lakewood soccer hopes to learn from the past
by Akaash Saini
For The Arlington Times
LAKEWOOD — In the past six years, the Lakewood boys soccer program has won five district championships. In the past six years, they have made six appearances to the state tournament, but never fully utilized their full potential that would take them to the top. This season, Lakewood coach Vaughn Vandelac knows his team can reach the state finals.
“I’m really pressuring the kids this year to at least get to the state finals. I think with the caliber of this team, we should be up there. District titles are nice, but I’d rather get to the finals of state and have a shot at winning it all,” Vaughn explained.
The players know what their coach expects of them. To keep working at their skills, many returning varsity and up-and-coming junior varsity players started a recreational team over the fall. In their U-19 league, they demolished their opponents and won the state trophy.
Coach Vandelac wasn’t too impressed. “They should’ve killed everyone they played and they did. Actually, I wasn’t happy with them playing rec league soccer. I wanted them to play with people at the level they were at or higher. They weren’t getting better that way.”
These boys just love to play soccer, whether they impressed their coach or not. The Cougars are returning nine players from last year. Of the nine, eight were starters. Lakewood lost four seniors last season that included three players from their heralded defense.
Defense is the foundation of Lakewood’s game.
“I try to work on my defense then go from there,” said Vandelac. “I don’t think we’ll lose a step from last year.”
What the team needs to work on is the other side of the ball, Vandelac added. “We might have to be more creative on offense this year. We can’t rely solely on one or two players. Any one of our midfielders can score.”
This team is built on teamwork. All-league senior forward Evander Ochoa explained his goal for this season is “to help the team. It doesn’t matter whether I score zero goals. As long as I help the team win, we’re good.”
The boys are close friends on and off the field. Team unity can easily be felt with their words. Junior Joseph Hawkins, who will likely play at goalkeeper, said, “It’s the team dinners and hot tub nights that bring us together.”
Whatever brings them close works as long as it translates into wins on the field.