Ideally, each member of the Lawrence High boys soccer team would have at least three years of experience heading into the 2009 season. But an all-senior starting lineup in the defensive backline will do just fine for second-year coach Matt Anderson.
Three of the four starters — Ryan Marienau, Derek Rousch and Matthias Reiber — are returning players. Cody Campbell will move up from junior varsity this year.
“I think for all of them to be seniors makes it easy,” Anderson said. “We can spend a lot more time on our midfielders and our strikers where we might need some work, knowing that we have that experience on defense. I don’t have to spend as much time with them. They’re seniors. They’re experienced. They’ve been through it.”
The Lions have learned from quite a few experiences already. They’ve been through last year’s disappointing 4-12-1 season and the 1-0 loss to Olathe Northwest in the opening round of regional play. And now they are more than ready to play like seniors.
“When I make a mistake, I learn from it,” Campbell said. “I don’t do it again. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my career. And I’ve made enough to not make as many as I have in previous seasons.”
But minimizing mistakes is only half the job of a good defense. The other half comes from teamwork and communication. And that’s where experience really comes in handy.
“We’ve been able to work together,” Marienau said. “We’ve been playing together for a long time.”
“With the experience they have together as a group, it’s going to be really helpful,” Anderson added. “We have a zone defense, and they really have to move as a group. That experience together gives an extra sense of, ‘I know where I need to be.’ We have that. They’re able to move as one unit.”
After years of soccer camps, club teams and Lawrence High soccer together, moving as a unit has become almost second nature for the defenders.
“You go out there, and when the offense goes against you, you just know,” Campbell said. “When people hear your voice, they know it’s you. And you know when you hear, ‘Step up,’ you’ve got to go.”
“We’ve all been playing together as far back as we’ve been playing soccer,” Reiber added. “We all know each other so it’s really easy to communicate. Going into this season, we have the backline set so we know who everyone is, and that will help us out.”
While anchoring the defense is the first concern for the four defenders, Anderson also will be looking to other seniors — defender John Fredrickson and midfielders Henry Chapman, Tim Thompson, Will Burg and Tor Fornelli — to bring leadership to the team.
“Once the game goes on, the coach has very little to do with it,” Anderson said. “You can only really talk at half-time. These guys are all very good leaders. They lead not just by their play, but they lead verbally. They’re all very capable, whether it’s at practice, in a game, or on the road.”
So with the defensive backline set and confident, there’s only one thing left to do.
“Now that we’re seniors, we want that regional win,” Rousch said. “There’s something special about being a senior. You know you’re not going to be out there again. You want to go out with a bang.”
Lawrence High will open its season Friday at Manhattan High.