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Ben Nelson (20) controls possession during a game this past season. Photo by - Brian Basham

DL progressed as season went on

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Progress was made throughout the 2012 Detroit Lakes boys' soccer season, as the young squad matured through each game, which brought adversity, along with improvement.

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The Lakers were hit with an untimely injury bug in the Section 8-1A playoffs, after losing three starters after their first-round victory over Crookston.

The short-handed DL squad limped into Hillcrest, falling 3-0 to the talented Comets team, thus finishing the season with a 7-10 record.

But despite an earlier end to the season than they wanted, the Lakers proved they were a very competitive team from the get-go.

"Many of our losses were close and we were never out of games," said DL head coach Justin Wegleitner. "Then we lost (senior) goalie Ethan Van Offelen for 10 games, which hurt, but we went 1-1 in our games against Fergus Falls and Alexandria.

"I felt that was pretty impressive start to the season."

Sophomore Connor Johnson filled in for VanOffelen admirably, as the young goalie was forced to learn on the job.

The Lakers low point of the season came in a 3-0 loss to East Grand Forks Sept. 13, which ultimately became a wake-up call.

"For how bad we played in that game, the guys were able to pick themselves up and gain a nice win to end the West Fargo Tournament (a 3-0 victory over Mandan, N.D.)," Wegleitner said. "By the end of the season, the team was playing pretty well."

The Lakers beat Crookston in a home playoff game 5-1, before losing junior attacker Wilson Lysford, midfielder Sam Bergren and senior defender Chris Larson for the Hillcrest game.

"We had good depth, but when you lose three in the starting lineup which was melding so well, it was tough to overcome," Wegleitner said.

Sophomore Luke Payne broke out against Crookston in the playoffs, scoring a hat trick and finishing with a team-high eight goals and three assists on the season.

"Sam was very determined this year, I don't think he realized how much of an impact he had on the team," the DL coach added.

Larson and Lysford were consistent forces on the perimeter, which freed up Payne and sophomore Jonathan Hallisey.

"We figured out our weaknesses with our attack by midseason, so I think they were playing pretty well after that," Wegleitner said.

The midfield was led by Hallisey, who had two goals and four assists, along with juniors Ben Thompson and Carlos Espinosa.

Senior Christian Tigges made the successful transition from midfield to defense, where he became a leader.

"After midseason, the main core of 13 players were melding so well and we stopped losing the gaps in the midfield and defense," Wegleitner said.

Junior Brady Crawford also was a good source of energy on the attack with four goals, as well.

On the defense, each of senior Gunnar Michon and junior Ben Nelson held down the outside slots, to help maintain a consistent presence.

"Gunnar never stopped working an developed into a good player, who was very coachable," Wegleitner said. "Ben was in and out of the starting lineup, but by the end of the season, he proved he deserved to be out there."

Johnson had to withstand some growing pains before VanOffelen returned towards the end of the season, which should set up well for next year.

There will be some good competition at goalie, with Johnson, sophomore Mackenzie Steele and freshman Carson Sonstegard vying for the position.

"Connor learned a lot from his time in the net," Wegleitner said. "When Ethan returned, he was able to bring some more experience and confidence, though. He brings a different dimension and has a bigger frame, along with being a three-year starter."

The Lakers graduate four senior starters from the 2012 roster, including VanOffelen, Tigges, Michon and Larson. Other seniors are Austin Savig and Luke Wiebolt.

"We will have seven starters back and 12 letterwinners returning, which is very good numbers for next year," Wegleitner said. "I see improvement and this group does show a lot of promise for 2013."

Laker results

Detroit Lakes boys' soccer season stats -- Final record: 7-10.

Offensive stats (goals-assists): Luke Payne 8-3, Christian Tigges 4-0, Sam Bergren 3-4, Brady Crawford 4-2, Jonathan Hallisey 2-4, Carlos Espinosa 2-3, Wilson Lystord 2-2, Alex Vanegas 2-0, Ben Thompson 2-0, Ethan VanOffelen 0-1, Austin Savig 0-1.

All-Conference First Team: Tigges, VanOffelen, Bergren.

Team Player Awards -- Laker Student Athlete Award: Gunnar Michon...Rookie of Year: Crawford...Most Improved Player: Montana Johnson...Unsung Hero: Chris Larson...Most Determined Award: Sam Bergren...Laker Golden Ball: Tigges.

2013 Team Captains: Bergren, Colton Friesen, Ben Thompson.

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Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN. 
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