From the ground up
With just two weeks left in the regular season, the Camdenton Lakers seem to have found their footing. Early in the season, the 2013 varsity squad found themselves with a 1-4 record. Two tournaments and six games later, the team has transformed that record to a seven wins and ten losses.
The team's first signs of turn-around came with an 8-1 win over Hillcrest at the end of September, followed by the Bolivar Classic, from which they emerged 1-2. But the biggest step they have taken had to be during the Laker Shootout, where the Lakers' soccer team picked up a win over Boonville and a loss to Fatima. The weather proved to be less-than-desirable, and eventually ended up postponing the last game, a match up between Osage and Camdenton.
With a 4-8 record, the Lakers continued their uphill climb, picking up another win over Marshfield on Oct. 7 before falling to Moberly in a 3-0 shutout. Their match against Ozark Conference rival Lebanon came down to PK's, from which the team emerged with a 2-1 win, and on Monday, Oct. 11, the Lakers hosted Osage in a rescheduled match from the Laker Shootout.
The Camdenton squad finished the game with a 6-0 win over the Indians, with each of the goals being scored by a different player. The Lakers proved to be too much for their Osage counterpart, taking 29 shots compared to Osage's nine. Tanner Moesch, Josh Pian, CJ Borden, Ryan Moffitt, Connor Hickman and David Prather all scored for the Lakers in the routing of the Indians.
With that win, the Lakers pulled themselves to a 7-9 record, the closest the team had been to .500 since their second game of the season.
A homecoming of sorts
The day after the Lakers defeated the Indians, the Lakers returned to action, this time against the Parkview Vikings.
A team that struggled last season, finishing 4-19 in 2012, the team has made some improvements this season, all of which began with the hiring of a new coach: Brandon Randall, the former coach of the Osage Indians soccer teams.
"He's a good guy, we're buddies," Coach Jason Ingold said. "He's done some really good things there. The biggest change he has done is he has changed the attitude of the team. He has a rein on them, and it has really translated well. I think he'll do a great job down there."
Returning to the lake for the match was something Randall looked forward to, and the match up between two equally matched teams promised to be a good one.
Camdenton jumped out to an early lead, with Ryan Moffitt scoring a goal on a rebound of the Parkview goalie's block after just seven minutes of play.
Parkview settled in after allowing the first goal, and began aggressively attacking the net before Parkview's Louis Taylor found the net after racing down the sideline and driving in to score and tie the game with 70 minutes left in the game.
Parkview's communication on the field proved to be better than Camdenton's and the Vikings used their advantage to move the ball well, eventually taking the lead with 20 minutes left in the half as Taylor headed the ball in the net as bodies surrounded the goal.
As the half drew to a close, Parkview's aggressive playing continued to threaten the net, but solid playing in the goal by Tanner Moesch made some key stops.
Taylor continued to be a thorn in the side of the Lakers, and found the net once more with four minutes left in the half, after which the Vikings added one more goal from Shane Mulberry to take a 4-1 lead before the end of the first half.
Parkview's last three goals came off of free kicks, which was very frustrating to the Lakers.
"To have that breakdown was frustrating," Coach Ingold said. "I really think it just comes down to communication and effort. That was our biggest thing to focus on in the second half, and I saw a turn-around, but we had already dug ourselves a hole."
The Lakers played a much better second half, but were only able to score one more goal in the game on a penalty kick.
Working out the kinks
"The conundrum of this season, for me, is trying to figure out how get these guys to play in the first half like they do in the second," Ingold said. "They're trying, and they're giving it the effort, but we're looking for that passion, that fire, in the first half. They're such a great group of kids and nice guys, we just need a little more aggressive playing on the field."
The team's efforts this season have not gone unnoticed, as the playing has gradually improved with each game to build the team up to their current state. Taking in to account the fact that their hectic schedule allows for few practices, and the realization that these improvements are being made on the fly by the Laker squad makes a turn-around a much harder task, but they seem to be adjusting well.
"We're doing a lot better job of getting the ball wide and bringing it back across," Ingold said. "Some things we still need to work on would be communication and also, I think we try and pass it too many times. This year, sometimes we just have to get the ball forward."
With just five-and-a-half (the Lakers game against Waynesville didn't get a chance to finish, so it will be played out on Monday) games left before the district tournament, the Lakers look to finish strong.
Their district opponent has already been decided, as the Lakers will face off against Waynesville in the first round, but first, Camdenton must play out the regular season.
Thursday night's loss to Jefferson City (Final Score: 7-2) puts the varsity record at 7-11, but there are plenty of positives to still be found before the rest of the schedule comes. Camdenton has some tough match-ups left, including a 17-2 Rolla squad, but after trailing 6-0 to Jefferson City, the Lakers came out in the second half to score twice on one of the top teams in the state.
It seems that maybe, just maybe, the Lakers have re-kindled something from the ashes of last season. Only time will tell.