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Playing to perfection

Laker captain Charlie Smith winds up for a shot against Crookston Tuesday evening at Rotary Fields.1 / 2
Sophomore forward Travis Kienitz runs down a loose ball against Crookston Tuesday.2 / 2

The Detroit Lakes boys' soccer team is plowing through virgin territory, but the Lakers are still keeping it all in perspective and not getting ahead of themselves.

After a 2-1 win over Crookston Tuesday, the Lakers are now 10-0-3, which is far ahead of where they were last year 13 games into the season -- a season which collected an all-time program-high 13 wins.

Challenges are being posed and they are being catapulted with impressive results.

For the second year in a row, DL won the West Fargo Tournament last weekend, tying with West Fargo in points for the team title.

The Lakers have beaten teams they have traditionally lost to in the past, including Fergus Falls, Hillcrest and Alexandria.

It's been quite a ride for the Lakers, but it's one they are not expecting to end anytime soon -- even though they are surprising themselves somewhat.

"I didn't think we'd be as good as we were last year," said senior midfielder David Jonason. "I know we still can get better yet, but not get ahead of ourselves."

It's been a bolstered attack which has made the difference between this year's team and last year's squad.

Losing 2008's leading scorer Victor Wilkins may have looked like a big hit on the offensive side of the field for the Lakers, but Jonason and his attacking mates have more than made up for it.

Jonason has taken over as the team's aerial attacker, converting four headers for goals, while tearing up the scoring column with seven goals in the last six games -- including a six-game goal streak, which have all resulted in wins.

"David has evolved well as a good scorer for the team and as an aerial attacker," said DL head coach Justin Wegleitner. "It's taken some time for him to get used to doing the headers, like his timing and placement, but he's doing well and some of his teammates are following his example with more people being involved in using headers in their attacks."

More goals have given a cushion to an already stout defense and goalie.

Senior Danny Engberg has five shutouts on the season and is a formidable last wall of defense for the Lakers.

"Mainly it has been the defense in front of me, they have caved in the inside and forced shots to the outside of the penalty area," Engberg said.

The defense had to find some new people to step up along with senior veteran Charlie Smith, after losing stalwart Cole Cossette to injury.

According to Smith, his younger defensive mates have adapted well and making strides in every game.

"We've talked a lot more and they are doing better," Smith said. "We are not as physical without Cole (Cossette) out there, but the younger guys are playing well."

Forcing their opponents from outside the penalty area has been key, but again, the improved offensive attack and early leads have been crucial, as well.

DL has led in games for the majority of the season, thus allowing a midfielder or two to drop back later in the second half to strengthen the defense.

"That really takes the pressure off, it's been key," Engberg said of the quick strikes for early leads.

But as all the Lakers agree, the attack can get more dangerous.

"We've had tons of chances on goal by getting good movement and passing," Jonason said. "But we can also score more with all the good opportunities we've had let go by."

The Lakers have four games remaining in the regular season and have the inside track to winning their first-ever Lakes to Prairie Conference title, as well as securing a top two seed in the section playoffs, which would ensure them home-field advantage through to the finals.

If DL beats East Grand Forks Thursday, Walker/Hackensack-Akeley Tuesday, Oct. 6 and Hillcrest Oct. 8, the Lakers will have clinched that conference title.

"The boys' soccer program hasn't added any trophies in the trophy case yet and that's one of our big goals is to win the conference," Wegleitner said. "That's one thing we are concentrating to show that boys' soccer is a part of that winning Laker tradition."

So far, the 2009 Laker team has a leg up on fulfilling that desired goal with an impressive 10-0-3 undefeated mark.

Lakers clinch second straight West Fargo title

It was another impressive showing by the Lakers in the West Fargo Tournament by winning their second-consecutive team title, tying with host team in points.

The Lakers collected 28 points with a 3-0 record and a two-goal differential with West Fargo.

If there was a tiebreaker, the goal differential would be it and DL would have it over West Fargo.

The Lakers beat North Dakota's No. 3 ranked Minot Friday 3-0 after outshooting them 18-5.

DL held a 1-0 advantage at half after a Joe Thompson long goal on a Giorgio Ulissi pass. The Lakers added two more points after Thompson found a streaking Jonason in the penalty area for a 2-0 lead and Andrew Friesen gained an assist on a Travis Kienitz tally.

Bismarck St. Mary's slowed DL down a bit Saturday morning, but the resilient Laker squad broke through a scoreless tie 26 minutes into the second half for the eventual 1-0 win.

The goal was notched on a Jonason header from a cross pass by Thompson.

DL capped the title with a 4-0 win over Jamestown, N.D., with goals going to Jonason, Thompson, Andrew Friesen and Andy Schupp.

Engberg had a very strong showing with three straight shutouts for five on the season.

The Lakers revenged one of their ties on the season, beating visiting Crookston 2-1 Tuesday at the Rotary Soccer Complex.

In the first meeting, the Pirates registered 13 shots on goal, but Tuesday, they managed just two.

Jonason extended his six-game scoring streak with a nice goal inside the penalty area, while Ulissi picked up the game winner after a scrum in front of the net resulted in a 2-0 lead for DL.

Engberg picked up the win with two saves, while the Lakers had 15 shots on net.

"After we got the lead, Joe Thompson stepped back a little to help with defense and Cody Jordan did a good job holding possession in the midfield," Wegleitner said. "The big thing we took out of the win was limiting Crookston to two shots on goal after giving them 13 at their place in the tie."

The Lakers will host East Grand Forks at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Rotary Soccer Complex.