Lakers look to build on success of 2012 and carry it to district title
WEST BLOOMFIELD — The playoffs are a ways off, but thoughts about them certainly aren’t — at least not with the West Bloomfield High soccer team.
Some 10 months after being bounced from a Division 1 district semifinal by Walled Lake Northern, the Lakers have regrouped with hopes of taking care of “unfinished business,” as coach Jason Clark put it.
And the squad he’s assembled to do just that may be the strongest he’s had in years — namely because so many of them are back from last fall.
“Things look real good, if we can get and stay healthy,” Clark said last week. The injury bug has already taken its toll on the Lakers, sidelining a number of key veterans during the season’s first few weeks. “That’s the main focus right now, just getting everyone contributing. When we do that, we’re going to be a good team.”
A year ago, the Lakers won the Oakland Activities Association Blue Division — its first league title for in 10 seasons. With 12 varsity players, and nine starters back, it also served as a table setter for what’s expected now.
“We want to go as far as possible with this team,” senior Pearson Mateika said. “We lost a game in the playoffs last year that we felt we could have won, and that can’t happen again.”
Senior Vikram Mathias took it a step further by looking two years back.
“We lost a district game (in 2011) when we were up 2-0,” he said. “Then again last year, we let one get away because we didn’t play well enough to win.”
The Lakers moved to the White this fall, almost certainly bolstering their strength of schedule during the regular season and offering a bit more preparation for the level of play in the postseason.
At press time, the squad was 2-3-1 overall, 1-1-0 in division play.
But it’s the district round that lingers in the mind of Clark and his guys.
Asked when West Bloomfield last moved onto a regional, Clark said the program “has never won a district title, that I know of.”
Needless to say, it’s been a while.
“This is the group that can do it,” Mathias said.
Health is the key right now.
Ben Vorce, a third-year varsity player and one of the team’s top scorers, has been severely limited due to injury.
Roberto Escalante scored 25 goals on the junior varsity last year and was expected to chip in on the big club this fall, but he has also been hampered by injury.
Those are just two examples on a team that is still searching for goal scoring.
“But if and when we can get everyone at 100 percent, this is a team that can win a district title,” Clark said.
“We’re due for one,” Mateika said with a smile. “It’s about time we go get one.”