Lewis and Clark is looking to defend its Greater Spokane League boys soccer title with a reloaded roster short on experience but high on talent and confidence.
“Losing a player like Jared Mehaffey, Bryan Maxwell and Zak Deutschman, that we really could do things with, it would be impossible for me to ask a brand new player to step in and do exactly what they did,” LC coach Mica Lamb said.
The three were All-Greater Spokane League selections, but the Tigers have seen an influx of players looking to join the soccer team.
“Our program depth is at an all-time high. I had more players try out this year than ever before,” Lamb said.“We are going to replace them with talented players, but it is talented players who are sophomores and juniors rather than the eight seniors we started last year.”
Lamb has never stuck to a formation or tactic. Every season he alters his play style to fit the abilities of the players he has available. That process helps him extract the most talent out of his squad.
“You really have to figure out what you have and make things work,” Lamb said. “I think it’s foolish to just think this is our system, this is what we do regardless of personnel. It definitely has been a shift in how we go about things.”
But with 12 players moving on, the changes have been greater than any other year.
“Most years, I return a pretty considerable core of my team and so we can kind of pick up where we left off, but this year I am replacing so many players that we really needed to be outside for traditional practices which wasn’t the case (this year),” Lamb said. “So I would say we certainly not where we want to be moving into the third week of the season.”
With the late-winter weather this season, that is the case for every soccer team in the Spokane area. Gym practices have become the new norm until the melt off and drying out of playing fields. Lamb and his staff have had to get creative with their practice situation.
“Everybody is in the same boat, so I’m not too concerned. I am eager to get outside and get out in our normal environment,” he said.
With inches of snow turning the ground to mush, the Tigers finally made it outside to practice for the first time on Wednesday, on the small field across from LC.
For the first time since the fall, LC navigated in the grass and shoot on regular-sized goals. The slowest progression for his young team has been their performance in front of goal and finishing.
“I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that we are not getting outside on real goals,” he said. “So we are playing on small goals inside with goalkeepers taking up most of it, so I have kids who are just trying to hit them as hard as they can – not a good strategy.”
But the Tigers have also used the gym to their advantage, honing their possession and technical skills.
“It kind of lends itself to that type of play, but we are very much a possession-oriented team,” Lamb said. “We like to keep the ball on the ground and play with the ball at our feet.”
As for the rest of the league, the 4A should be strong again with teams jostling for the top spot in the standings. Lamb knows the challenge will be tough this year as his young team matures over the nonleague season.
With a young team also comes a smaller, less athletically mature team. Skills can be taught, formations can be learned, but LC will need to battle the physical play of other teams.
“A lot of our opponents will be bigger, stronger, older than a lot of my guys, so I think that teams will try and attack us that way, with a physical brand of soccer,” Lamb said.
League play starts: The GSL schedule kicked off Tuesday as Ferris blanked Rogers 6-0 behind a pair of goals and an assist by Caden Martin. On Wednesday, Chris Peretti broke a scoreless tie in the second half, freshman Thomas Coleman made three saves and Gonzaga Prep blanked Mt. Spokane 1-0 in the opener for those teams. Also, Cole Dobson registered a goal and an assist and University topped Shadle Park 3-1.