The Lawrence University men’s soccer team is a group that brings a lunch pail to work every day.
It’s one of those metal lunch boxes with a thermos of strong, black coffee that your Dad took to the paper mill every morning. That image fits this group Vikings because they are definitely blue collar, working class guys.
“We are who we are and the kids understand that,” Lawrence coach Blake Johnson said. “Collectively, we need to work together, stand together to be successful. That’s the best-case scenario. I wouldn’t want it any other way.”
Without a true “star” among its starting 11, Lawrence has carved out a 4-4-1 record (1-1-1 in Midwest Conference play) with bit of a patchwork lineup.
Lawrence has played all season with its lone all-conference selection from a season ago, defender Charlie Mann, because of injury. The Vikings also started the season without injured midfielder Joe Cullen, midfielder Karl Mayer and defender Nick Craker.
“It hasn’t made it easier,” Johnson said of the injuries. “This year, more than any other year, we’ve been juggling and piecemealing things together until we can get everyone back.”
The injuries forced changes to the lineup, and that has revealed the character of the squad, according to Johnson. In addition to giving others a chance to step up their games, the biggest change to the lineup was moving playmaking midfielder David Caprile to the defense. Caprile led the team in scoring a season ago.
“Caprile, for three years, has been a rock in the midfield and understood his role,” Johnson said. “He has taken the opportunity and the need for the team to be the center fullback. As a coach, those are the kind of kids you want in your program. They will do what is necessary for the benefit of the team.”
Despite the injuries and the alterations to the lineup, expectations and the Vikings’ style have not changed.
The Vikings are still shooting to be one of the four teams playing in the MWC Tournament at the end of the season. Lawrence is aiming for its third consecutive MWC Tournament appearance and its fourth in the last five seasons. Lawrence also has continued to play its style, preferring the type game that Johnson fell in love with during his childhood in South America.
“I’ve continued to challenge them to play the game the way it should be played … Possession soccer, rather than just hammering the ball down the field,” Johnson said. “I don’t think our kids would enjoy that, and I wouldn’t enjoy that.
“If (Monday’s) game (a 1-0 victory over Wisconsin Lutheran College) was any indication, I was very pleased with the way we played and the energy and the urgency.”
Lawrence faces another huge test when it travels to defending conference champion Carroll University on Sunday. Johnson feels confident that his continually improving squad can play its team game with anyone
“It’s a case of everyone working for each other, understanding their roles and sacrificing a little bit of personal glory to keep us in matches,” Johnson said. “I’m very pleased with where we are right now and looking forward to getting the full complement of players in.”
Pino, Olsson pace golfers
The Lawrence golf squad completed its fall season with a solid sixth-place finish at the Wisconsin Lutheran Invitational on Monday, and the Vikings could have a pair of all-conference performers on the squad.
Sophomore Anton Olsson was the team’s top player a season ago and finished 18th at the MWC Championships. Olsson had a stroke average of 81.5 last season, but he has improved his game. Olsson’s average stands at 77.0 after the fall campaign. The Vikings have added another top player in freshman Rudi Pino, who averaged 76.0 in five rounds this fall.
Both Olsson and Pino trade in their clubs for skates in October as both are members of Lawrence’s hockey team.
Editor’s Note: Inside LU Athletics is a notes package written by Lawrence University Director of Athletic Media Relations Joe Vanden Acker. It will feature teams and individual players, recap weekly awards or highlights and take a look at what’s ahead for the Vikings.