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September 18, 2012

Walled Lake soccer coaches expect nothing but the best as KLAA race heats up

By Mike Moore
C & G Sports Writer

» click to enlarge «
Walled Lake Western sophomore Chris Donaldson battles for the ball in a game earlier this season. At press time, all three Walled Lake teams were battling for the top spot in the KLAA North.

Somebody will have to win it.

Getting to that point is the fun part.

With the non-conference portion of the 2012 soccer season almost complete, the Walled Lake schools boys soccer coaches know the angst, heartbreak and elation the next few weeks are sure to offer as the race in the Kensington Lakes Activities Association heats up.

And they wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s going to be a battle every single game, a battle,” Central coach Joel Sharpe said last week. “This is why these rivalries are so cool. There are some things we’ve talked about as a team, some of the goals we set. But all the goals we set depend on playing well against these schools.”

“You have to be pumped to play these games,” Western first-year coach Dan Turner said. “We haven’t had a chance the past few years in terms of being very competitive, but we see ourselves as contender this year, and that makes it a lot of fun.”

At press time, Northern, Central and Western occupied the top three spots, respectively, in the KLAA North Division.

In head-to-head meetings so far, Central and Northern played to a 1-1 tie, and Northern bested Western 2-0.

Western hosted Central Sept. 15, after press time, plays at Northern Sept. 24 and then travels to Central Oct. 4.

Central travels to play at Northern Sept. 20.

“I think it’s great for each program that all three are doing well right now,” Northern coach Chris Stevanovic said. “It’s going to be a tight race, and I know all three want to get wins down the stretch.”

Stevanovic and the Knights have something else to work with, or pressure to live up to, depending how you look at it.

Since 2008, Northern is the only team to win the KLAA North Division.

“It’s a ton of pressure right now on us,” Stevanovic said with a laugh. “I mean, it’s something we are serious about, something that I don’t think anybody will ever do again — winning five in a row if we are able to. It’s the main goal these guys have.”

So just what will separate the three teams, and ultimately, set one above the rest?

Well, the three coaches had three different answers.

“You have to be simple with how you play,” Stevanovic said. “You can’t do too much or try to do more than you can. Find a way to battle through the moments that matter and enjoy it.”

“Offense will come at a premium,” Sharpe said. “I think all three teams are strong defensively, so finding a way to get those goals is going to be key.”

“I think the team that wins will be the one that finds a way to be flexible, to change the things that need to change as the game, and the season, goes on,” Turner added. “What I’ve learned is that you can’t have a strict game plan and not be able to back off of that. We’ll go in with a plan, but we have to be able to learn on the fly and adjust. That’s what successful teams do.”

You can reach C & G Sports Writer Mike Moore at mmoore@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1038. Twitter Follow Mike on Twitter.