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Bar set high for DL boys' soccer

The Detroit Lakes boys' soccer team has set some high expectations, which could lead to making some school history.

With a balanced team and strong facets of the game all the way from goalie to forward, the Lakers are in place this season to have that bar set high.

"We plan on making some Detroit Lakes history," said senior midfielder Jon Carter. "Our goal is to have a strong regular season and make at least the section finals."

Another lofty target in the Lakers' sites is the 12-5 record the DL team set a few seasons ago, which is the best all-time mark in the team's 11-year history.

The make-up of a successful team is there, as well as the talent and experience, said DL head coach Justin Wegleitner.

"We have soccer players now, and that's the one thing we are enjoying now entering our 12th year," Wegleitner added. "We no longer have to train athletes to be soccer players, but now we can train just soccer players.

"We've come a long way."

There will be some changes from last year's team, which finished with a record of 8-9-2.

Wegleitner will fit the system to the players, not the other way around. That will mean a different formation, potentially going from a 3-5-2 (three defensive men, five midfielders and two forwards) to a 4-4-2, because of the depth and experience on defense.

"We return two of our three starting defensive men, so that will reshape the way we take the field because of our depth there," Wegleitner said.

The defensive unit will be anchored by lots of experience in Charlie Smith and Cole Cossette, who have played the same backfield together for the last four to five years.

"They know exactly where each other are and know what the other is going to do," Wegleitner said. "Those are two guys who don't miss a beat."

The experience and depth in the defense will be like a domino effect, in that it will free up the midfield to be more aggressive on the offensive attack. That in turn will take pressure off the forwards at the point of attack.

"Our balance should be key, along with our chemistry," Carter said.

"Our defense is good and our team chemistry is probably the best since I've been here," said senior forward and three-year starter Victor Wilkins.

The midfield will be able to control the tempo of the game, which if by choice, means slowing it down.

Carter and David Jonason give the attack an outside punch and the ability to strike from the outer edges of the penalty area.

Those types of shots also cause rebound opportunities, in which the likes of Wilkins and fellow forwards Joe Thompson and Brandon Baker have the opportunity to pick up some higher percentage goals.

With the depth and different scoring options, a defense will not be able to key on one or even two players.

"We have some fast forwards, and Victor is our aerial scorer," Jonason said. "Our midfield has some strong legs and will be able to take some long shots on goal."

Another strength between the midfield and forwards will be passing. Instead of just playing kick ball and dumping the ball in the opponent's zone, the Lakers will try to create scoring opportunities with combination passing.

That, again, leads to higher percentage shots taken closer to the net.

"We have good passing skills in the midfield and from our forwards," Carter said. "We also have some good combination passing, and when you can get a combo pass through, you can also make some runs through the zone for goals."

Even at goalie, the Lakers are deep -- three deep, in fact.

A pair of goalies split duties last year, after Alex Guetter started the season and then suffered an injury to open the door for Danny Engberg.

The pair made a formidable duo, along with senior Brandon Johnson, who also possesses solid goalie skills.

"That's a valuable asset this year," Wegleitner said of the goalie depth.

Mike Christensen, a former Laker player and now assistant coach to Wegleitner, is also seeing the DL squad take shape.

"We have a solid goalie corps and two solid defenders who are physical, strong and fast," Christensen said. "When you have two defenders like that, you can split the middle, and that allows the midfield to be more offensive-minded and Jon Carter is very talented as an offensive midfielder.

"Victor (Wilkins) is naturally gifted and is savvy up front, along with Baker and Thompson, who are both fast and agile. Baker and Carter both are connected, too, and know what the other is doing without saying anything."

The season will start out with a pair of games which will measure early where the Lakers are.

DL opens the season at home Thursday at 6 p.m. against its rival and traditionally tough foe, Fergus Falls. DL then plays Saturday against another top-competitive team at Alexandria, starting at 11 a.m.

"Those are two early tests for us, but I feel we are in a good spot to have a great season," Wegleitner said.

"We have high expectations and the section finals should be the team's goal, at least," Christensen added.

If things work out accordingly and the Lakers do reach their high goals, some history could also be rewritten by the 2008 team.