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Boys ready to kick it big



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September 01, 2010 - By Joe St. Henry, Special to The Review

With two games played, two things are clear about this year's boys' varsity soccer team, according to head coach Matt Paukovits.

It's definitely talented, but the boys have some things to learn, especially when it comes to playing in pressure-packed games against strong opponents – something the Dragons will experience often this fall competing in the OAA's top division and hopefully the state playoffs.

"We may not be loaded with superstars, but this is the deepest team we've had since I've been here," said Paukovits, entering his third season at the helm. "But now the players have to learn to thrive in the competitive environment we're in."

Little time was wasted in showcasing this talent. Lake Orion opened the season last week with a rousing 5-0 win on the road over rival Clarkston.

The team's attack-minded approach produced four goals in the first half.

A few days later, however, playing away against Plymouth-Salem, a state semi-finalist last year, the team lost 4-2, falling behind early.

"We succumbed to our inability to handle pressure," Paukovits said. "Players need to play bigger in certain situations. It's part of the game. But, I thought we played well enough to win."

The Dragons' mettle will be further tested this week, with another road game against Rochester Adams and then at home against Troy Athens, which returns 10 starters.

"It's a tough league – you may win one night and then lose the next, with no breaks," the head coach said. "But we don't make the schedule, just play it."

Despite the formidable competition, expectations are high for the 2010 squad. Pre-season rankings put Lake Orion amongst the top teams in the county and state.

Paukovits is not surprised, considering the Dragons have won 28 games the past two years.

"We certainly have a target on our backs, but that has been the case for a while," he said.

Leading the team this year is captain and senior forward Blake Skamiera. Joining him up top is starting senior Jesus Ginez. The midfield is anchored by junior Jacob Sims, returning for his third year on varsity, with seniors Alex Shubitowski and Victor Arribas.

The back line defense features sophomore Justin Anderson, seniors James Gillen and Steve Sophiea, and juniors Jarrett Gorman, Angel Herrera and Adam Yee. Goalies junior Ian Chevrier and senior Ferdinand Habbel will compete in net all year.

Given the team's depth, Paukovits is counting on 5-6 players to score this year.

"Skamiera is a very good player, but we can't rely on him too much," he said. "The ball can't always play through him. Other guys have to step up."

Given the program's success in recent years, it appears the coaching staff has succeeded in teaching players all over the field how to do just that. The recipe is simple.

"Everyone on the team has bought into our system and worked hard over the summer," Paukovits said. "Now, it's a matter of focus and being ready to play every day."

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