After the graduation of the 17 seniors off of last year’s varsity soccer team, Head Coach Jamie Kelly felt unsure about the future of the program. He didn’t think that this year’s team would do as well as the team last year. Kelly had concern as to whether the team would be able to compete at the varsity level.
“Since we graduated 17 seniors, I was hoping we would be able to compete in games, but I felt like we would have to learn how to win at the Varsity level,” Kelly said.
However, after an 12-2 start, this year’s team has shown that they can compete at the Varsity level. Last year’s group of seniors were eager to have a good season, but according to Kelly they didn’t play like a team, and had an early exit at state. With them leaving, he didn’t know what to expect for the rest of this season.
But to Kelly’s surprise, this year’s team has made history for East. They started out the season with a winning streak of 11 straight games. There are five returning Varsity players, 16 from JV and junior Austin Wilcox who transferred this year from Maine. Kelly has been impressed with the five returning starters and their acceptance of leading roles on the team. He says the team works really well together mainly because they are all so close and it has helped them succeed in their games.
“Our team chemistry is our best quality,” junior midfielder Hank Tamblyn said. “We are always helping each other out and that’s what helps us win.”
Before the start of the season, the team practiced at least four times a week over the summer to get prepared. In July, they traveled to St. Louis for a Varsity Showcase and won three out of the four games. Tamblyn said that it was good for the team to find out what they needed to work on and for everyone to find their role on the team.
During the first game, the Lancers were eager to find out how they sized up against the other teams in the league. Once Wilcox scored the first goal of the season, the team gained a lot of momentum and it motivated them to work harder. According to Tamblyn, the team figured out they played really well together and they finished the game with a score of 4-0.
Senior defender Jeremy Young was nervous because he had never played with most of his teammates, but after five minutes, he felt comfortable with them.
“At the beginning of the season I knew deep down that we would do well,” Young said. “I had no idea [we] would be this great.”
During practice the players mainly focus on what they did poorly in the previous game and on possession of the ball. By focusing on that area, Kelly feels his players will play faster and make it harder for their opponent to get around them.
“Coach Kelly is really interactive with us at practice and in the games,” junior defender back Jack Shook said. “Before games he is always telling us what we need to do to outwork our opponents.”
Shook said that the team is getting better because everyone is always focused on practice and always puts forth effort. There is never any messing around or goofing off, but the team still finds a way to have fun playing together, he says.
“The team has gotten better and works well together,” Shook said. “We are always making sacrifices for each other during games.”
According to Kelly, East soccer has always had a good reputation. He says they’re known for playing clean soccer rather than playing cheap. Before every game, Coach Kelly always tells the players to outwork their opponents.
“You never want to come out of a game saying I wish I did this or I wish I did that,” Kelly said. “You want to give it your all, 100 percent, and if it wasn’t good enough then so be it, that’s fine.”
The team knows that the rest of the season will be very difficult and it will be hard to keep their high rank in state. Kelly said as they keep doing better, their opponents will work harder and will give it everything to keep from being defeated.
“The next few games are going to be hard, but we have to give it our ‘A’ game,” Tamblyn said.
Kelly wants to end the season with a final record of 14-2. He says it would be nice to stay undefeated, but the teams they will be playing will be difficult to beat. To achieve their goal of being in the number one seed in the state they have to win the rest of their games.
“I would like to finish off the season winning at least three of the last games,” Kelly said. “If we do that then it will put us in the number one seed and that would be great.”
The team is optimistic about their chances to place at state.
“If we work hard and play like we know we can, then anything is possible for the rest of the season,” Shook said.