Mark Szabo clearly was reserved in his expectations for the Lakeside boys soccer team this spring.
The 10th-year Lions coach knew it would be tough to replace five departed members of the team’s defense from 2012.
But he wasn’t sure exactly what that meant.
The fact that Lakeside lost four All-Metro League Mountain Division first-teamers and one second-teamer was cause for concern for Szabo. So far, it has proved to be less than a minor speed bump in 2013.
The team has jelled as a whole, meaning the offense and especially the defense has been a whole lot better than expected. The Lions are sizzling at both ends of the field and off to a 7-0-0 start, outscoring opponents 28-3 with five shutouts.
“With what we lost, I’m a little amazed with how well we are doing,” said Szabo, who has guided the Lions to the state semifinals three times with a 2006 runner-up finish. “We lost five of our six defensive players, and they weren’t just average players. We lost our goalkeeper and three of our back line.
“It’s been pretty amazing to watch some of the people step up. This season was kind of an unknown. It’s nice to see us come together.”
Some personnel-shuffling from last season allowed Szabo to plug the holes from last year’s graduation departures. Szabo was also able to keep key pieces in the proper spots to keep the Lions’ offense explosive.
“We kind of rely on a stream of young talented players to keep our program going, and competitive with those big schools with mostly seniors and juniors,” said Szabo, who has six starters returning. “We have four seniors, five juniors, five sophomores and three freshmen. Because our school is actually a [Class] 1A school, we draw from a smaller pool.”
Senior Thayer Fisher was moved from left back to center back on defense.
“He has become a leader in the back and the person we can depend on,” Szabo said.
The emergence of sophomore goalkeeper Wallis Lapsley has also been a key, who is bigger and stronger in his first season as a starter.
Also, sophomore Killian Pinkelman has successfully transitioned from right-side midfielder to right back on defense.
Freshman Quentin Chi, normally a forward for club, has learned the left back role and can cover a lot of ground.
“He’s been doing fantastic for us,” Szabo said of Chi.
The hot start might force Szabo to reconstruct some season goals near midseason. For now, the Lions coach is cautious, but optimistic with this squad, which has some young and talented pieces to the puzzle.
“I’m happy with where we are,” said Szabo, whose team finished 11-5-0 after falling to Mountain View of Vancouver 2-1 in the first round of the state playoffs last spring. “We have a very good attacking group that can score a lot of goals and has a lot of fun.
“We are actually re-assessing our goals today [Monday, April 1] after figuring out we can do certain things. Normally, going into a season, my only goal going into a season is to make top-three in Metro and that puts us into the Metro tournament.”
Expectations have grown already in 2013.
“I’m generally not a result-based coach,” Szabo said. “I’m all about the process.”
Lakeside likely gained confidence when it upset second-ranked Bainbridge 2-1 to claim the Metro League championship last spring. Some of that is carrying over in 2013.
The only thing Szabo seemed certain of was that the Lions would roar on offense with forwards Seyi Adekoya, a junior who had eight goals and three assists in 2012, and Charlie Devine, a senior who supplied five goals and two assists in 2012.
“Seyi [pronounced Shea] is one of the fastest kids in the league,” Szabo said of Adekoya, a non-Academy player for Crossfire Premier Soccer Club. “Seyi and Charlie are both hard-working, athletic forwards that put the other team under a lot of pressure. They complement each other very well.”
Midfielders Gaby Joseph, a junior, and Wyatt Paul, a sophomore, are set-up guys for the Lions’ forwards.
Adekoya has already put up eight goals and two assists and Devine has registered seven goals and one assist. Joseph has been there for four goals and three assists.
Szabo hopes his team peaks at the end of the season.
“It is still very early in the season, and seven wins at the front of the season doesn’t mean as much as winning the last seven,” Szabo said. “We plan to keep it simple for the boys, work them hard and challenge them to continue to improve throughout the season.
“The competition we see every week [in Metro] prepares us well for the postseason.”
Mustangs stampede to sizzling start
It’s hard to imagine more talent roaming the halls than what Redmond High School puts on the field with its boys soccer team, which is rated No. 1 in the scoreczar.com computer rankings in Class 4A.
But that is the case.
The Mustangs lineup is already stacked, but there are five Academy players with NCAA Division 1 promise attending Redmond. They can’t join their high-school team with last year’s new rule in effect.
Still, the ‘Stangs are strong.
“We had a what I thought was a really good returning defense,” Redmond coach Patrick Scheibe said. “I felt like we’d be solid defensively and we had two goal scorers back.
“We’ve had our midfield come together and step up.”
This has all the earmarks of a historical season for Redmond, which already off to a 6-0-0 start overall and 1-0-0 in KingCo 4A.
It could be an even deeper squad if the five top-line players chose high school over Academy play.
“They’re not associated with the team, but they come out and watch our practices,” Scheibe said. “Their hearts are with their classmates. It’s an interesting dynamic now. I’m sad for those kids. Those kids don’t get to represent their high school.”
The Mustangs have reached state just five times in school history, last qualifying in 2007 and posting its best finish when third in 1985.
The Mustangs hope to build on a 9-6-0 season in 2012, one that ended with a 2-1 shootout loss to Issaquah in the KingCo 4A tournament.
The Mustangs bring back a pair of high-scoring forwards in seniors Andrew Leadbeater and captain Cooper Bilginer. The duo combined for 23 goals and 11 assists in 2012 as Leadbeater supplied 15 goals and two assists.
Both are already off to a hot start as Leadbeater has put up seven goals and two assists and Bilginer shows four goals and two assists.
Senior defender Hunter Stopenhagen, another captain, anchors the ‘Stangs back line.
Redmond, which already had seven starters back, got a lift when sophomore Pablo Gallo-Arias transferred from Portland, Ore., in the fall. Gallo-Arias brings a playmaker mentality to the midfield, which already had senior center midfielder Justice James, the nephew of former Sounders player Bernie James.
Junior goalkeeper Grayson Raffensperger returns as a third-year starter.
So far the Mustangs have outscored foes 18-1 with five shutouts.
Marquee matches upcoming
Tuesday, April 2
SPSL 4A North Division, Tahoma (3-2-2) at Kentwood (4-1-1) at French Field, 7: 30 p.m.
KingCo 3A/2A, Mercer Island (3-1-2) at Liberty (Issaquah) (6-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
Metro 3A Sound Division, Nathan Hale (3-3-0) at Chief Sealth (6-1-1), 4 p.m.
Wednesday, April 3
WesCo 4A, Snohomish (6-0-0) at Mariner (5-1-0) (Goddard Stadium), 7:30 p.m. Snohomish leads the North Division at 5-0-0 and Mariner leads the South at 5-0-0.
SPSL 4A South Division, Federal Way (6-0-0) at Rogers (Puyallup) (3-1-2) at Sparks Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
WesCo 3A, Shorecrest (3-1-2) at Stanwood (4-0-2), 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 5
KingCo 4A, Newport (3-2-2) at Redmond (7-0-0), 7:30 p.m.
KingCo 4A, Skyline (5-1-0) at Roosevelt (4-1-2), 7:30 p.m.
SPSL 4A North Division, Jefferson (6-0-0) at Mount Rainier (3-1-2) at Highline Stadium, 7:30 p.m.
KingCo 3A/2A, Mount Si (4-1-1) at Mercer Island (3-1-2), 7:30 p.m.
Washington state computer rankings
Area schools Redmond (4A) and Lakeside (3A) top their respective classes in the Washington state computer rankings with Archbishop Murphy (2A) checking in at No. 3 and Seattle Christian (1A) coming in at No. 4.
Link below to full rankings by classification:
National rankings picture
The first spring boys soccer rankings from National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) are due to came out on Tuesday, March 26. Four teams from Washington state opened in the top 20 with a fifth team in the also receiving votes category. Defending Class 4A state champion Skyview of Vancouver debuted at No. 5 with a string of fellow Washington schools getting mention – Jefferson (4A) at No. 9, Snohomish (4A) at No. 11 and Federal Way (4A) at No. 16. Lakeside (3A) was among four teams also receiving votes. The next set of spring rankings is due out Tuesday, April 9. The current rankings link is below:
The NSCAA regional poll was filled with all but one Washington team, from No. 1 through No. 10. Here’s the initial Region V poll for spring of 2013: