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Boys soccer: Lakers roll over Pelican Rapids; Justin Wegleitner named Section 8-2A Coach of the Year

The Detroit Lakes boys soccer team cruised past Pelican Rapids for the second time this season. It came on a night where the Lakers celebrated their parents and Justin Wegleitner's Section 8-2A Coach of the Year honor. The Lakers are now gearing up for a competitive section playoff run.

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Detroit Lakes' Avery Young and Ethan Gjerde celebrate the first goal of the game in the Lakers' 7-1 win over Pelican Rapids on Oct. 4, 2022 at the Rotary Soccer Complex.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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DETROIT LAKES – After the first 40 minutes of the Detroit Lakes boys soccer game against Pelican Rapids on Tuesday, head coach Justin Wegleitner brought his team across the field to stand in front of the Laker faithful.

With roses in hand, the boys were announced one by one to thank their parents for supporting their soccer endeavors. For Wegleitner, it was a moment of appreciation for those who made his Section 8-2A Coach of the Year honor possible.

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Justin Wegleitner announced his resignation from the Detroit Lakes boy soccer head coaching position following his 26th season. Wegleitner was named Section 8-2A Coach of the Year after leading the Lakers to an 11-5 regular-season record.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Wegleitner started the boys soccer program in Detroit Lakes 26 years ago and has been the only head coach in team history. On Tuesday morning, his Section 8-2A cohorts rewarded him after leading the Lakers to one of their best regular seasons in school history.

“It means a lot. Hearing all of the messages that came through today–it’s a lot of love,” Wegleitner said. “This is a community that I came into from St. Cloud that grew into a family. It made me want to stick and not want to leave. That’s what makes it sweet to win this award. It’s not just for myself, but for the boys and the community. It shows how much we’ve developed over the last couple of years to make this such a strong team. They helped me earn the award, and it’s nice to be honored by my peers in that way.”

Detroit Lakes’ (10-5) 7-1 victory over Pelican Rapids clinched the first double-digit win season since 2008. Through 15 games, the Lakers have flipped their 2021 record of 5-10-11 on its head and sit in the top half of the section standings.

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Detroit Lakes' David Giambellini controls the ball in the Lakers' 7-1 win over Pelican Rapids on Oct. 4, 2022 at the Rotary Soccer Complex.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“He definitely deserves it,” senior Avery Young said of Wegleitner’s Coach of the Year honor. “He pushes us in practice and gets us hyped up before games. He’s just a good coach all around and keeps our heads in the game. He deserves a lot of credit.”

One of the significant contributors to Wegleitner’s award has been Young leading the Lakers’ offensive breakthrough this fall. Young scored four goals on Tuesday, and leads the team with 22 on the season.

“I can’t do any of this without the good assists I get,” Young said. “It’s basically my teammates giving me great assists. All I have to do is put the ball in the back of the net. We’re clicking. We have good chemistry because we’ve been playing together for a while. We’re clicking better this year than we ever have.”

Wegleitner knew Young could put up a big number, but he didn’t expect to push for the single-season program record.

“Our all-time leading goal scorer is Eric Stanley with 27 goals in 17 games,” Wegleitner said. “I told Avery I’d give him a bonus game because it’s harder to get to 27 in 16 games. We’ll see if he can get it like Eric Stanley did, who was one of our most potent scorers ever. It’s really exciting to see somebody push for that.”

The Lakers took advantage of several defensive errors committed by the Vikings. Mason Frank got in on the scoring action with a gritty goal off a misplayed ball near the goal line in the first half.

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Detroit Lakes' Noah Rieber controls the ball in the Lakers' 7-1 win over Pelican Rapids on Oct. 4, 2022 at the Rotary Soccer Complex.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Mason is a poacher,” Wegleitner said. “He’s exciting in the way he gets to those spots. He’s got six goals on the year now for only playing 15-20 minutes a game. In some games, he hardly gets anything, so it’s awesome to see him get rewarded for his hard work.”

David Giambellini scored twice in two minutes. He put a strong boot into his first goal that snuck past the Pelican Rapids keeper before taking advantage of another misplayed ball for his second. Giambellini has found ways to contribute more as the season progresses.

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“We’re starting to come together,” Wegleitner said. “Noah Meyer is healthy, which helps a lot. He and Noah Rieber have a good groove going to give us control. Our outside guys with Bryce (Skaaland), Jackson (Massjo) and David Giambellini have really been great. (Giambellini) is starting to get in his groove. His first few games weren’t as good as he’s been lately. Those guys are feeding, and Avery has stayed in that top gear. Guys find a hole for him, and he’s just tough to defend.”

The Lakers have scored 25 goals in their last three games. Offensively, they’re hitting a new gear at the right time. But, on the other end of the field, Detroit Lakes’ defenders haven’t allowed more than one goal in five of its last six games.

Goalkeeper Evan Thomas, along with Caden Reep, Cole Deraney and Kyler Muff, have overcome some early-season hurdles to show they’re a formidable unit on the back end.

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Detroit Lakes' Avery Young chases after the ball in the Lakers' 7-1 win over Pelican Rapids on Oct. 4, 2022 at the Rotary Soccer Complex.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Those two started last year in finding their knack together as a group,” Wegleitner said of Deraney and Reep. “It’s continued to evolve throughout the year. Cole is tactical with his tackling, and it’s gotten even better this year. The third guy who has stepped in there has been Kyler Muff. They tried to put a ball over him tonight, and he headed it backward. He’s doing some great things. We’ll need him coming into playoffs when we see some of those teams in the playoffs.”

Barring something unforeseen, the Lakers will host their first-round playoff game next Thursday, Oct. 13. Wegleitner hopes his team’s firepower is enough to go on a run.

“The biggest thing that separates us from years in the past is our offensive prowess,” Wegleitner said. “We don’t get shut down very often. In the past, we struggled to get on the board because we were a strong defensive team. We’d win games 2-1 and 3-2. Now, we have 65 goals this season. Once we get rolling, there’s not much stopping us. When we come together in that huddle in the pregame and at halftime, they’re focused on getting one step better that day. They want to get ready for that playoff run.”

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Detroit Lakes' Evan Thomas takes a picture with his parents as the Lakers honor their loved ones in a 7-1 win over Pelican Rapids on Oct. 4, 2022 at the Rotary Soccer Complex.
Jared Rubado / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Jared Rubado is the sports editor for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and the Perham Focus. He moved to the area in September of 2021 after covering sports for the Alexandria Echo Press for nearly three years. Jared graduated from the University of Augustana in 2018 with degrees in journalism and sports managment.
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