An “expectation of winning” is the way Eastview boys’ soccer coach Scott Gustafson described it.
It’s how he explained his team’s run of three consecutive Class 2A state championship game appearances, and, more specifically, how he put last season’s run to a second-place finish in perspective.
“I think I’d be remiss to say that the better team on the field kept winning those games,” Gustafson said. “The kids have just built this culture where they expect to win, and having that mind-set, when they get the opportunity to step up, they have taken advantage.”
Case in point: As the Lightning’s state semifinal matchup with a talented Edina team went to penalty kicks last fall, Gustafson called on Kyle Lamott to take the first shootout attempt of his entire life. Lamott scored.
He also made two saves to help Eastview win; Lamott is the team’s goalkeeper.
“I was so nervous taking that shot,” Lamott said, looking back. “But we practiced it a lot, and Coach had said to take it seriously because you never know when you could be called on.
“That’s just what our team’s done. People step up when they need to.”
Lamott is now a veteran leader for the Lightning, one of a handful of seniors that will look to continue Eastview’s impressive three-year run as one of the state’s elite soccer programs.
Gone, though, is the majority of the Lightning’s offensive firepower from a year ago. All-state forward Pierce Erickson graduated, and Eastview has some large holes to fill when it comes to scoring.
Senior Brett Ladoux is the team’s top returning goal-scorer, and Gustafson said there are talented players who could step up into that sort of role, as well.
Most likely, though, defense will be the foundation of the Lightning’s team this season, Gustafson said.
“Every year, our senior leadership and our coaching has just been really strong,” senior defender Matt Kratz said. “We’re just a focused team. The last few years, we’ve just figured out ways to get it done.”
Gustafson credits a lot of that to the “type of kids” he has on the squad. A number of the team’s seniors, such as Lamott, have grade-point averages above 3.9, and many take advanced placement and honors courses.
“We have really good kids that understand that team concept about selflessness, and guys that are going to be doing grunt work and guys that are going to get headlines,” Gustafson said.
The majority of the team been playing club soccer throughout the summer, and Gustafson held the program’s varsity skills camp this past week at the high school. The Lighting, now a full year removed from its 2012 state title, begins official practices Aug. 11 at which point the players will get back to their focus: finding a way to win.
“We’re in a tough conference and a tough section, and our goal is to make another nice run,” the coach said. “The big things is that we’re going to be in situations where you need to seize opportunities. That’s what we’ve done, and we have the expectations to do it again.”