Belleville East boys soccer coach Mark Lasley resigned Tuesday after 17 seasons.
Lasley, a graduate of O’Fallon High School and McKendree University, replaced Gary Carr in 1999 and led the Lancers to regional championships in 2002 and 2006. Lasley, an art teacher at East, was an assistant coach under Carr for three seasons before taking over.
Lasley, 44, the longest-serving soccer coach in the Southwestern Conference, finished 150-175-35. The Lancers’ best team in terms of record was in 2009 when they finished 17-4-1.
East was 3-14-3 overall this season, including 1-5 in the SWC.
“That long grind of year after year after year ... For about four years now, I’ve been thinking about finding the right time to walk away. This time, I feel like it’s the right time,” Lasley said.
“Being able to be a head coach of a program that long takes a lot of energy, a lot of time, a lot of planning. At some point, you’re either still excited to do it or that excitement kind of wanes a little bit. I don’t want to stick around just for the paycheck. I want to be excited about what I’m doing. It was time to pass it on to somebody who’s ready to take it over.”
With Lasley’s departure, Edwardsville coach Mark Heiderscheid becomes the longest-tenured coach in the SWC. Heiderscheid’s first season was in 2000, one year after Lasley’s. O’Fallon coach Jason Turkington began in 2001.
Lasley also coached East’s girls soccer team for 10 years, going 97-89-7.
Lasley said he still enjoys the game and recalls with fondness the many battles the Lancers had against Belleville West and Althoff. But Lasley discovered in the last few years that he no longer possessed the energy required of a coach.
“There were days the last couple of seasons – after a hard practice, where we’re working and I’m yelling a lot – that I just felt like I was wrung out,” Lasley said. “When I was younger, I’d feel like, ‘Wow, that was a great practice.’ Now, I feel I’m exhausted.
“I’ve tried to stay in shape the best I can and do a lot of things to be ready for that, but there’s no getting around it. Your body can’t do what it could do when you were 25.”
Lasley said East’s lack of success on the field (24-65-12) the last five seasons also took its toll. The Lancers have had trouble scoring goals, and that’s a recipe for disaster in the SWC.
“That was part of it,” Lasley said. “If we were just dominating and winning state every year, I probably wouldn’t be hanging it up. But that wasn’t the only reason. There was a lot that factored into it, but that was one of the contributing factors, for sure.”
Lasley’s 2010 team was 14-7-1 and featured the scoring exploits of Travis Hoguet, who finished with 30 goals. Since then, the Lancers haven’t had a double-digit scorer.
“Travis Hoguet was probably the best all-around goal-scorer we had in that tenure. He put a ton of them in the back of the net that year,” said Lasley, who remembers Larry Scheller (soccer, basketball, baseball) as being perhaps the best three-sport star he coached.
“It’s been a fun run. I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. “Our conference is absolutely brutal. I know there’s a few really tough conferences in the state, but I would put ours up against any of them.”
Lasley said he won’t be far removed from soccer. He hopes to increase his officiating duties in the fall. In recent years, he has officiated girls soccer games in the spring.
Lasley and his wife, Carla, have a daughter, Ashtyn, 20, and a son, Colton, 19. Ashtyn is majoring in special education at Illinois State; Colton is majoring in law enforcement and homeland security at Western Illinois.