Change of Pace: Despite only two returning varsity lettermen, boys soccer team focused on improvement

Meghan Kennedy, Staff Writer

When the 2011 State championship game came to a close, the varsity boys soccer team accepted the State runner-up trophy with tears in their eyes. They realized they had not only lost the final game, but that they were losing 18 players and friends as well.
As they thought about it, they realized there was always next year to capture their first State title.
Coach K. Dean Snell said although the loss was disappointing, he was just happy to have made it that far.
“I told the team, in a post-game meeting, ‘There are 32 teams that were looking for the opportunity to play for the state title, but only two could’,” he said. “At that point in the season, we were better than 30 other teams. It was an up and down run to get there. So as time went on, it was a great accomplishment.”
Even though they couldn’t claim the state title, current co-captain senior Bryan DeBaun said the game was bittersweet.
“It was an awesome experience, but it was awful losing,” he said. “We were all crying after, but to know we were the only team to make it to the State finals [in BV history] was awesome. Especially since the team we lost to has been making it to the state finals for, like, seven years in a row.”
DeBaun said the sting of getting second at State pushes the team to reach their full potential this year.
“Obviously, we’d like to go to State again, but we’re in 6A this year,” he said. “It’ll be a lot more competitive playing the bigger schools with better athletes. It won’t be easy to make it that far again, but if we play as a team, I think we could do it.”
Snell said he has changed the way he coaches to get the team adjusted to the varsity mentality, but his philosophy will remain the same.
“The majority of the team last year had been on varsity for at least two years, so I didn’t have to explain as much to them,” he said. “This year, it is a whole new team for me, and I am a whole new coach for them. Some of the more detailed things are what I need to talk to them about.”
The team only has two returning varsity lettermen, DeBaun and co-captain junior Ben McDonald.
“I think this year will be different because we basically have an entirely new varsity team,” co-captain senior John Lesko said. “We usually have more returning varsity players who can help the new players get used to the faster speed of play, but we don’t have that this year. We really have to push ourselves.”
The team also has two sets of siblings. Lesko’s younger brother, sophomore Joey Lesko, and sophomore Carson Funk and senior Dalton Funk are all first-year lettermen.
“Between the siblings, there is a lot of mutual respect,” Snell said. “I really don’t think there is a line between the sophomores, juniors and seniors on the team because they all share a common goal, and that’s awesome.”
Lesko said the captains, McDonald, DeBaun and himself, plan to bring the team together.
“I think the most important thing this season is going to be to learn to play better as a team,” he said. “We’ve been practicing really hard, and we’ve all been encouraging each other and pushing one another to work harder.”
DeBaun said the captains all have very different personalities on and off the field.
“I’m quiet during school, but when it comes to a game, I’m the loudest one there,” he said. “John Lesko is pretty popular, people tend to like him. He’s easy to look up to. Ben is also popular in school, but he is quiet during the game. We all have very strong opinions on what the team should do in soccer and that helps.”
Snell said the group of guys are very coachable.
“They listen very well, and the chemistry between them is very good,” he said. “They do things without being asked, and they always go above and beyond of what I ask them. They are very disciplined and well-trained, as well.”
DeBaun said due to limited defense experience, they have problems communicating.
“They don’t really tell the other people ‘Forward, forward’ or how to defend the opposing players, so they can make their job easier,” he said. “We are really good at making combination passes. If we pass well and quickly, we can move around the defense pretty efficiently. Last year, we relied more on the talent we had, but this year we need to focus more on possessing it and attack the best we can. We always want to fill the shoes of the seniors from last year, but it’s a different kind of feeling. You just have to live up to what you can do.”
Snell said the team just needs to play the best they can, even if it doesn’t show on the scoreboard.
“One of our focuses is to improve every day,” he said. “We always want to get better from yesterday and give our best effort. The expectation is [that] we play to the best of our ability. If we work hard, good things won’t happen — great things will.”