Lehman soccer coach Brad Baker wished his team would be less like goldfish and more like elephants.
All too often, Baker said, the Lobos jump out to a lethargic start early in the match and have to play catch-up in the second half. Friday’s 3-1 loss to Westlake followed a familiar trajectory. The Chaparrals scored the first goal seven minutes into the match, putting the Lobos in comeback mode.
Baker likened his team to goldfish based on the belief they have a short memory span. He prefers a team that embodies the mind of an elephant, which has one of the best memories in the animal kingdom.
“They are a bunch of goldfish out there. We’ve played these teams before and they forget what they do,” Baker said. “It takes them 10-15 minutes to figure it out, then I give them general observations that the kids take it to heart. They are really good at listening; they just have a hard time remembering.”
After Westlake took a 1-0 lead, Lehman fought to rally back.
Lehman’s Elijah Barrientos rebounded a deflection after Westlake’s goalkeeper stopped the first shot attempt, and pinged the ball into the back of the net for the tying goal.
But Westlake added two quick goals, one from Ike Petrik and the other from captain Robert Vassilev, in a span of 90 seconds to take a 3-1 lead late in the first half.
Petrik scored on a one-hop pass, while the 6-foot, 3-inch Vassilev muscled a shot into the goal from more than 10 yards away.
Again, the Lobos were afflicted with short-term memory loss.
“That’s been the carbon copy all season long … We either go down in the first half and it’s a scoreless sheet in the second half. We are a second half team through and through.” Brad Baker, Lehman soccer coach
Once the second half resumed, Baker had a better feel for his team. He asked his wing players to oscillate between offense and defense more frequently to put additional pressure on the Chaparrals. Baker believes the tactical adjustments played a part in the scoreless second half, in which Westlake attempted just five shots.
“We needed a win,” Baker said. “We had good opportunities, but we were half a step behind in finishes. If we could have called a timeout in the first half, it would have probably been a different game. But that’s the nature of soccer. It’s a fluid game.”
The loss dropped Lehman to 6-9-4 overall and 4-7-1 in district play, good for sixth place in the standings.
On a big picture-scale, with the playoffs a long shot, Friday night was the last opportunity for the 2017 senior class to play at home.
Eight players from this year’s 17-man roster are seniors. Baker knows the senior class well as he selected them all to the varsity team.
“This class is special. This is probably the first batch of seniors that I have coached from start to end,” Baker said. “This is the group that I molded the most. It’s the last of the Old Era or the first of the New Era. This is my first batch out the door, so it’s nice to see them play so well.”