Might a coaching change and two foreign exchange students with soccer backgrounds breathe some life into the St. Helens boys soccer program?
Clark Lawrence hopes so.
The new head coach is a former Lions player who is emphasizing fundamentals and accountability in preparation for the 2019 season.
Success for the '19 Lions will be measured in small steps. St. Helens has not won a varsity boys soccer game since the 2015 finale. None of this year's seniors have experienced a varsity victory.
Lawrence said the streak comes up in training sessions.
"I use it to fuel them a little bit," Lawrence said.
His emphasis, though, is on getting players to focus on what they can control: their effort and attitude during each training session.
Lawrence expects St. Helens' matches to be high-scoring. Last season, most of the scoring was by St. Helens' opponents, who outscored the 0-14 Lions 102-10.
"We're going to score a lot more goals than we did last year," Lawrence said.
The Lions return several attacking players and should get a boost from Mateo Da Re, a senior exchange student from Italy who will play striker.
Among the returning starters, junior Kaleb Edwards received honorable mention from the Class 5A Northwest Oregon Conference last season. He will shift to primarily play on the wing this season.
Senior team captain Jimmy Lopez leads a midfield that includes junior Cameron Sexton and Finnish exchange student Aarni Ingman.
Senior Michael Aguilar-Rose and Ethan Ziegler are expected to anchor the back line for the Lions.
Aguilar-Rose shifts from right back to a central/sweeper position to take advantage of his ability to communicate and cover ground.
Freshman Andrew Worlitz and junior James Goodrich are competing for the starting job at goalkeeper.
Several underclassmen also are expected to get playing time. Among them are sophomores Thomas McFarland on defense, Jack Salisbury on the wing and Ethan Steadman in midfield. Defender Matthew Parsons and striker Avery Kennedy are freshmen who could contribute.
The best news for St. Helens soccer is that there are enough players for a junior varsity team. For a building program, the opportunity for young players to get game experience is vital.
In early training sessions, Lawrence has put a premium on passing drills and teaching player movement. For example, he wants his team to be able to pass its way out of the defensive third of the field instead of instinctively booting the ball up field to clear danger.
The Lions get their first crack at ending a 42-match winless streak on Sept. 3 at Dallas. They will play five of their seven nonconference games at home before starting the NWOC season at Oct. 9 at home against Putnam. Their first nonconference home game is Sept. 12 against 4A Astoria.
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