Sports

Lakewood Cougars to show off soccer IQ

Lakewood coach Bryce Barker, right, talks with senior Sean Hackworth about positioning. - Travis Sherer
Lakewood coach Bryce Barker, right, talks with senior Sean Hackworth about positioning.
— image credit: Travis Sherer

LAKEWOOD — Coach Bryce Barker is hoping his boys will take the next step in 2011.

The Cougar boys took large strides on the pitch last season despite a near team-wide lack of experience, but this season Barker has reason to believe his team is capable of more.

“I think our strength this year will be a soccer IQ,” said the second-year manager. “Last year we didn’t have that, but now instead of teaching fundamentals, we can spend time on game plans for the teams we’re facing and do more formations.”

While the kids win the games on the field, Barker and his staff’s game plans helped Lakewood win a number of matches that were thought to be upsets, including a win over Archbishop Murphy late in the season.

“We felt like we could at least frustrate teams last year with our game plans,” said Barker.

Those wins helped the Cougars to a 6-8 record in the Cascade Conference, which earned a berth in a district tournament play-in match.

This year the Cougars bring in a freshman class of 15 strong to a program that graduated 11 seniors and had a hard time getting players to try out a year ago.

Barker, who is a Lakewood alumnus, attributes this turnout to a change in the culture of the program.

“We’re trying to build an atmosphere where we have fun as we learn how to play this game,” he said. “And I think it’s working.”

Another factor in such a high turnout is senior midfielder and program captain Brandon Ochoa.

“We wanted his role to be more than just team captain, and to his credit, Brandon really took a hold of that responsibility and got kids interested in the program,” said Barker.

Ochoa will lead a team along with second-year players Sean Hackworth, Evan Thorpe and Jordan Vandalack.

Around the rest of the Cascade Conference, Barker expects to see Archbishop Murphy back near the top, and also mentioned this year will be interesting for the rest of the field.

“King’s has a new head coach,” he said. “They always put together a tough team, but that will be interesting to how that all shakes out, and South Whidbey had a good young team last year. They will be one to watch.”

The Cougars start their season March 15 at Burlington-Edison.

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