August 29, 2012 - The 2011 season for the boys varsity soccer team entered and left with a whimper, only managing a record of 5-13.
Senior Alec Schlitt keeps his eye on the prize despite the Birmingham Groves players closing in during a game on Aug. 24. Photo by G. Ouzounian (click for larger version)
But 2012 is the year Lake Orion wants to turn that around and that started with a new coach this season.
Curtis Payment, whose prior coaching experience comes from club soccer in Clarkston and for the Michigan Impact team was earnest about the high school team. He said Lake Orion's club is a work in progress but talent is here and it will emerge once organization is achieved.
"I got a late start as I was hired in the middle of the summer," said Payment. "(The team and I) are still feeling each other out but we have a lot of talent. I really think we'll get out stride and give everyone a good season."
Payment made no excuse for the 2011 season, which he said resulted in Orion's demotion to the OAA White league where they will face Avondale and Oxford among others. For Payment, he said he didn't know much about what happened in 2011, but knows that he's trying to change the attitude of the team to a winning one.
But he'll have his work cut out for him as just under half of his starters have graduated. Payment said he's basically starting from scratch. This means he has to think about more than just the upcoming season.
"We have 14 seniors, six juniors and one sophomore," he said. "Because of the high concentration of seniors, we had to move some juniors to JV for what it's worth. They're important and we'll need them next year.
"If I ended up taking 22 guys you're looking at five guys who basically don't get to play. It's better to put them on JV and on the pitch."
Returning senior Addison Wittry will take the role as captain as he has demonstrated to Payment that he has a leading capacity. He also plays well in middle, center and defense, which will aid returning senior goalie Greg Thelen who Payment said is "phenomenal." From a scoring standpoint, senior Justin Anderson will return, ending last year's season with 15 goals, which according to Payment makes him "a real weapon."
The lone sophomore on the team didn't get there without achievement either. A.J. Lively, a 6'1" midfielder got the opportunity to move up above some of the upperclassmen because he's what Payment called "a really exciting player."
All in all, Payment said he's happy to coach in Lake Orion and said coaching positions here have an allure.
"I had some guys on my team that played for Lake Orion and they told me there was an opening," he said. "Really, not many opportunities like Lake Orion come along so I jumped at the chance to get an interview. It has a rich tradition and it's one of the nicest fields in the state. It's just a comfortable place and I already know a lot of people in the community."
The team opened their season with a tournament on Aug. 15 against Rochester, Stoney Creek, Alpena and Marquette. The team didn't win a game, but Payment said his goal is to explore and determine what the team needs to succeed.
Following the tournament, the team squared off against Berkley at Anderson Middle School, losing 2-1. Payment called the team solid and again didn't mourn the loss, adding that this early in the school year he wants to give his players confidence.
"We can compete with these teams but we need to have a learning curve," he said. "I see it in practice but it's not translating to the games. It's still around the corner though because these guys play for Lake Orion. It's a big school and they need to have some pride."
Payment has coached for 10 years in the club soccer leagues. The boys will play again on Aug. 30 against Andover at home.