Of all the athletics programs at Lake Ridge, the boys soccer team was perhaps the most successful in the school’s first year of existence. Last season’s team finished runner-up in District 16-4A and advanced three rounds deep into the playoffs, eventually seeing its run end in a 2-0 loss to Granbury in the sectional round.
Like the other programs, the soccer team was forced to come together in a hurry.
“Anytime you’re starting a program it’s difficult,” head coach Cory Elolf said. “Each year I think it’ll get easier as we progress.”
“Last year I didn’t know anybody,” he added. “I had three to four months to get everybody going. This year, I knew exactly what the kids could do. It’s been much easier.”
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Like most of the Lake Ridge teams, the boys soccer team entered its second season with a raised level of expectations. But unlike most others, the Eagles’ soccer team is tasked with surpassing last year’s results.
“It gave them a real sense of pride, and they want to continue to feel that and continue to build this program,” Elolf said. “They really want to be top dog in the area. They want to be the best team in Mansfield.”
Elolf knows how tradition can help breed success – the coach came to Lake Ridge from Arlington Martin, a traditionally strong team that has advanced to the state title game before. He’s hoping to establish a similar mindset at his new school and is off to a solid start.
Lake Ridge lost only three seniors from last year’s squad, but it’s the quality of the losses belie the quantity. Gone are the club’s leading scorer and top defender.
“Those are some pretty big holes that we’re still trying to fill, quite honestly,” Elolf said.
But he’s confident there are players on this youthful roster ready to emerge.
“A lot of what we went through last year has helped them this year through the maturation process,” Elolf said. “Although we’re still young, we’re young with a lot of playing time.”
The Eagles feature five seniors this season, including midfielder Juan Correa, a team captain who Elolf feels has grown nicely into his role.
“Sometimes it takes seniors some time to realize they’re seniors,” Elolf said. “And he’s done a really good job stepping up and showing leadership on and off the field.”
Correa, who had eight goals and seven assists last season, is joined in the midfield by junior Austin Strout, another returning letterman who notched seven goals with 11 helpers last year.
Between the posts and commanding the defense is junior goalkeeper Taylor Lampe, who posted eight shutouts a season ago.
Returning junior forward Jared Stubblefield hopes to build on his six goals from last year.
Rounding out this year’s team is a trio of freshmen that Elolf feels will – and – have made an immediate impact. Esteban Piceno has already caught the coach’s eye this season.
“He’s really come along,” Elolf said. “Coming off the bench, he’s really become a spark for us. He’s really stepped up, especially just being a freshman.”
Lake Ridge finished its non-district campaign with a single loss compared to six wins and a pair of draws. Record-wise, it’s a better start than last season, though Elolf isn’t sure how to compare the level of competition with last year’s non-district schedule. Either way, the squad’s focus is now squarely on district play, which begins with Burleson Centennial on Jan. 28. The Eagles’ success thus far has done little to change the expectations Elolf had entering the season.
“I thought we could be as good as we want to be,” he said. “They’re really taking that to the fullest. They’re really battling in a lot of games and that’s something I’m proud to see them do. They’re definitely trying to fulfill the expectations.”