BELLEVILLE — A dearth of goal-scoring was a season-long problem last year for the Belleville East boys soccer team.
The Lancers generated just 14 goals and were 4-16 overall and 0-6 in the Southwestern Conference. Nine of East's goals came in the first three games, with five coming in its final 17.
"Last year, we were a good team. We just couldn't score," said 12th-year Lancers coach Mark Lasley, whose team opens its season at 7 p.m. Tuesday against visiting Waterloo. "We gave you a great game, whoever we were playing, and were always in the game. But we just couldn't score goals. It's hard to win games that way, so we didn't win very many.
"This year, we're really the same as last year. We're focused on trying to finish the ball. If we can do that, I think we'll be a good team. We've got a lot of the same guys, we move the ball well and we possess pretty well. We're just trying to find the back of the net."
Lasley is optimistic the problem will be a thing of the past, but clearly, more players will need to contribute.
"From what I've seen from them at practice so far, they seem to be a little more mature and more comfortable on the ball in front of the goal," Lasley said. "It seems like it's going in the back of the net a little bit better. We had a scrimmage the other day and I think there were five, six goals scored. So that's encouraging."
The Lancers return 11 seniors, including forward Austin Wilson, whose five goals led the team in 2012.
"Hopefully, he'll get quite a few," Lasley said. "After that, there will be a bunch of (possibilities). I'm not sure who's going to actually be putting it in for us, but I think everybody's going to get chances. That's for sure."
The Lancers have had dynamic scorers in the past, most recently Travis Hoguet in 2010. But in the last two seasons, it's been scoring by committee.
"Hoguet was really our go-to guy at putting the ball in the back of the net," Lasley said. "Since him, we just haven't had anybody that really stepped up and buried every chance they got. We've been looking for a good scorer since then.
"If we have a guy who can put it in every time, that would be awesome. But if we don't, when we do get good chances, we want whoever to put it in the back of the net. I don't think there's any real preference. It's just a matter of you've got to put them in when you get the chances."
The Lancers will employ a 4-4-2 system to start the season, but Lasley said Monday morning that he still had not determined starters for every position.
"There's a lot up in air," he said. "We're trying to figure that out."
Seniors Brendan Dobbs and Brandon Edgington are two of the Lancers' starting defenders, with two spots up for grabs.
Wilson and senior Dayton Durzo are the likely starters at forward, with junior Brendan Heins a starter at center midfield. Seniors Nick Framstead and Aaron Peters will hold down two of the three remaining spots in the midfield.
Senior Cody Matthews will start in goal, with junior Miles Brunk serving as the backup.
"Miles had an unbelievable breakaway save in our scrimmage," Lasley said. "Cody had several good saves as well. Both are solid kids --big, strong athletes. I don't think we'll have problems there."
Other seniors are: midfielder/forward Austin Cox; defender/midfielder Twaine Jones; defender David Kerley; and midfielder/forward Dylan Schmidt.
Other juniors are: midfielder/forward Faris Al-Ghussain; defender Daniel Chevess; defender/midfielder Shayne Koester; and midfielder Todd Radil. Matt Sotiropoulos is a sophomore midfielder.
Contact reporter David Wilhelm at email@example.com or 239-2665.