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Cougars Soccer PREVIEW
Lakewood must overcome mud first, opponents second
The district champions in boys soccer the past four years play on a dirt field. In a testament to the grit and determination of the players, these kids have carved out a unique legacy for themselves while playing under adverse conditions.
However, dirt field or not, the task of bringing home a State championship to Lakewood is not yet complete.
The last two years in a row the team has lost in the first round of the State championships. In both games they were their own undoing. Two own goals left the Cougars shocked by lesser rivals. There are huge expectations to play past the first round, perhaps going all the way to the title.
To do that, Lakewood must get through a tough district made even tougher through the new realignment of schools. Coach Vaughn Vandelac suggested that, Granite Falls will be tough with a large number of returnees. Cedar Crest will also be strong this year. Just about everybody will put up a fight.
The cupboard is far from bare at Lakewood where eight players from the varsity squad return from last seasons run. This will be Vandelacs fourth season coaching varsity with all four years ending at State. The Cougars have won four straight district titles.
Vandelac promises to employ a traditional 4-4-2 formation with a sweeper and a stopper in the back spearheading the defense.
We will start with a strong defense and work forward. I like to build from there. Control the ball and move it. Not a couple of passes and a long ball.
Two critical returnees leading the charge will be senior Gerardo Resendiz, the teams stopper and an option for taking free kicks in the scoring third of the field. He, along with senior Elio Puentes, controls the game from the backline, barking out orders to the midfield.
The midfield will be organized by senior Erik Hawks in the center, whose skill and on-ball ability make him a contender for all-district honors. Junior Kelvin Mansfield will be expected to bring quickness and leadership to the group.
Up front Vandelac relies on sophomore Evander Ochoa, a waterbug of a forward, to create goals. Last season as a freshman Ochoa started over half the games up front. The expectation of his continued development will go a long way to determining the overall success of the team. Ochoas goal scoring help will come from Andrew Escalante, a senior forward and the teams second leading scorer last year.
Still, the impetus will be on ball control and possession soccer. Not the typical high school fare.
I dont play kickball. The guys prefer to possession soccer and were not sending a 50/50 ball forward every time, Vandelac said.
The prospects are good for the team this year, with a fine combination of talent and experience look for them to make a run toward district and State honors. The odds are better than 50/50.
Head Coach: Vaugh Vandelac
Asst. Coach: Lowell Zenk