The past two seasons have been very successful for Lake’s boys’ soccer team.
Two years ago the Flyers went 15-4 and reached the Division II district finals. Last year, coach Chad Lillich’s squad went 13-5 overall and 6-4 in the Northern Buckeye Conference and reached the district semifinals.
This year’s Lake squad has a ways to go if it hopes to win it’s first-ever conference championship and make a return trip to the district tournament. The Flyers entered Thursday’s match at Otsego with a 4-3-1 record.
“We lack size and some depth,” said Lillich, in his sixth season. “We’re getting there. We’ve had a lot of transition. We have some kids we are playing out of position.”
The Flyers return seven starters from last year’s squad, but Lillich said he’s still searching for the right starting combinations. Case in point: juniors Danny Patel and Vince Askins and senior Casey Plank have all played goalie this season.
“We’ve had three goalies this year, and all three are inexperienced,” Lillich said. “That’s all it comes down to. They’re going to be good goalies in the future, but they’re young and inexperienced and they need to get some confidence.”
Plank, who formerly started as a center midfielder, was scheduled to make his second career start in goal on Thursday against Otsego.
“He’s very athletic,” Lillich said. “He’s probably our top athlete. He has great hands and is a good, hard worker. He’s up for the challenge (in goal). He said he would be willing to play it, so he kind of stepped up.”
In its first eight matches Lake notched wins over Tiffin Columbian, Toledo Christian, Old Fort and Rossford. The Flyers lost to defending NBC champion Woodmore, Swanton and Bowling Green, and they tied Eastwood.
Lake’s leading scorer is senior forward Austin Hall, who has three assists and leads the team with 15 goals. Hall tied a school record when he scored five goals against Toledo Christian.
“He’s the kind of player who’s going to beat you with speed and good foot skills,” Lillich said. “He’s a very intelligent player.”
Junior forward Nate Francis is the Flyers’ second-leading scorer, with nine goals and three assists.
“He’s a tall guy, probably 6-4,” Lillich said. “He’s big and athletic and does a pretty good job of holding the ball. And, he has a pretty good finish.”
Lake’s other starters are seniors Jay Staples, Kyle Perry, Miles Kidd and Forrest Bennett, juniors Patel and Jeremy Likes, and freshmen Cody Sutter and Mason Veler.
Lillich said he is confident that the experience his squad obtains during the regular season will pay off when the postseason rolls around.
“We’ve had a little problem with balance this year,” the coach said. “We had some kids who just weren’t quite ready. We were relying on some kids we didn’t think we were going to have to rely on. Going into the playoffs, we should be in pretty good shape. We have the skills, but we have to do a better job of defending as a team and adjusting to some of the styles we’re playing against. We want to be playing in that district final at the end of the season.”