High School Sports

East soccer coach stays the course through Lancers’ growing pains

No coach wants to experience what James Chambers has gone through this season.

Chambers is in the early stages of rebuilding the Belleville East boys soccer program. The growing pains have been significant, as the Lancers took a 2-17-1 record into their regular-season finale Thursday night at Carbondale.

But the 36-year-old Chambers, who replaced longtime coach Mark Lasley in January, is determined to stay the course.

“Going into the year, we knew it was going to be a rebuilding year,” Chambers said. “You would hope some of the games would be a little closer, but for me, looking at every game, I think every one since the Waterloo game, we go into halftime either 0-0 or down 1-0 or 2-1. We’re in the game.

“But the lack of experience in the second half seems to be an issue. We play three seniors. The rest are juniors, sophomores and freshmen, so we’re really young. We’ll return nine of our 11 starters next year. This year isn’t over yet, but the future of Belleville East soccer is definitely looking bright.”

The Lancers own victories over Althoff (1-0) and Chicago Academy (5-0). Their goal-scoring production in those games accounts for half of their season total of 12. East’s leader in goals is junior Terrance Puribhat with four.

“That was one of our concerns,” Chambers said of the offensive shortcomings. “When your leading goal-scorer has four goals, everyone cringes a little bit. It’s just something to continue to work on and try to figure out a way to score.”

This is a process. We’re trying to get the boys to understand, ‘Hey, look, it’s going to be a difficult year. Just continue to buy into the system. Just continue to do the things we want and it will get better.’

Jason Chambers, Belleville East head soccer coach

A dearth of scoring makes it difficult to win any games, even if the defense is staunch. There’s never a break in the Southwestern Conference, and the Lancers also have faced nonconference opponents Waterloo, Triad, Quincy, Marquette and Gibault.

“We had Quincy, Mehlville, Edwardsville and Columbia in the same week,” Chambers said of a brutal stretch between Aug. 30 and Sept. 2. “It’s just mentally draining.

“This is a process. We’re trying to get the boys to understand, ‘Hey, look, it’s going to be a difficult year. Just continue to buy into the system. Just continue to do the things we want and it will get better.’”

Among the Lancers’ top players have been Puribhat, senior defender Kameron Wallace and junior midfielder Devin Chambers (James Chambers’ son).

“Kam has been a four-year varsity player, and Devin has stepped in as a junior to be that voice, that guy that kind of gets the troops rounded up and making sure they’re staying focused,” James Chambers said. “Both have really helped the boys and set the level high as far as what they expect out of them.”

Other players include freshman midfielder C.J. Cagas, junior midfielder Hunter Peppers, sophomore midfielder Lucas Framstead and sophomore midfielder/forward Tyler Lane.

Not only will East return nine starters next season, but Chambers said nine freshmen are competing at the junior-varsity level and could be of help next year.

“They’re getting time playing against bigger, stronger guys early,” Chambers said. “So when they step up to the varsity level, it’s not as much of a drop as freshman (level) to varsity.”

David Wilhelm: 618-239-2665, @DavidMWilhelm

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