Scoring goals has been an issue for Belleville East the last four seasons.
The Lancers haven’t had a double-digit goal-scorer since Travis Hoguet amassed 30 as a senior in 2010. Since then, East’s entire team has scored 21, 14, 28 and 28.
“We haven’t had a real, true, dominant goal-scorer since Hoguet,” said East coach Mark Lasley, whose team finished 6-11-3 overall and 1-3-2 in the Southwestern Conference last season. “We’ve always got a competitive team, but sometimes that difference in winning or losing a lot of games is having somebody who’s going to bury the chance when they get it.”
Lasley hopes McCarthy can be the Lancers’ go-to player on offense. McCarthy was third on the team with seven goals last season, behind the eight scored by graduated players Faris Al-Ghussain and Brendan Heins. After McCarthy, the Lancers’ next-leading goal-scorer was senior Matt Sotiropoulos with two.
“McCarthy has a hard shot when he gets the ball at his feet,” Lasley said. “Hopefully, he’ll be banging them in this year. He’s the biggest target for us (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) and he’s going to be the biggest target for defenders to try to mark up. He’ a big, solid kid.”
With 11 seniors, experience won’t be an issue for the Lancers, who open their season against visiting Waterloo at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Bulldogs, who play in Class 2A, nipped East 4-3 last year and are expected to have one of the better teams in the metro-east.
“We’ve got a large number of seniors, which is always a good thing,” said Lasley, in his 17th season. “And our young guys are really good this year, which is nice.”
Sotiropoulos will play soccer when there isn’t a conflict with football, his No. 1 sport. Sotiropoulos is East’s kicker and punter in football. He had two goals and three assists last year.
“He’s a good player,” Lasley said. “He’s got a cannon for a leg, obviously.”
Other seniors are defenders Devin Beck, Jared Brockmeyer, Jalen James-Patterson, Kyle Fernandes and Josh Witt, midfielders Kerry Dessalines and Max Elbe, midfielder-forward Brandon Truss and goalie Jake Kerkemeyer, who replaces the graduated Miles Brunk.
Brockmeyer and Truss are playing for the Lancers for the first time since their freshman years.
“Brockmeyer is a good player,” Lasley said. “He’s been playing club. We’re happy to have him back. He kinds of solidifies our defensive line.”
Lasley said Dessalines probably is East’s fastest player and could be a sorely needed offensive weapon that will keep defenses honest.
“He played a lot of minutes at the JV level last year and scored a few goals,” Lasley said. “We’re hoping he can get behind some defenses and put the ball in the back of the net a little bit.”
Lasley said Elbe could fill any hole on the field.
“He can play anywhere,” Lasley said. “He has good skills. He moves the ball well and he’s a smart player.”
Juniors are backup goalkeeper Chandler Eason, midfielder Justin Schmidt and midfielder Kameron Wallace. Sophomores are defender Devin Chambers, forward-midfielder Hunter Peppers and midfielder Cameron Whitehead, who didn’t play at East last year.
Two freshmen also will see time at the varsity level: midfielder Jude Crowner and forward Lucas Framsted, the younger brother of former Lancers star Nick Framsted.
“Lucas is much better as a freshman than Nick was as a freshman,” Lasley said. “That’s saying something. He was a great player for us, a captain for us.”