SLS girls lax: Balance is the beauty of this year's team
Tim Helstein is a humble guy. He's also a successful coach, so you know there's some tenacity somewhere inside.
So when you get this quote from him -- "You ask any coach who the best team is, and for the past 20 years, [Greenwich Academy] has taken the title. For me, to say we're the best team, I can't put down any other teams and put us ahead of them. What I can tell you is we will be the most athletic out there, the team with the most potential." -- that's about as close to smack talk as you'll get. If he's willing to go that far, he probably believes this group can win the FAA -- here it comes -- running away.
But if that's to happen, it's going to be because of a different approach from last year's team, which was plenty successful. Gone are Tara Carey, Kim Callaghan and Brook Lawrie. Those three girls accounted for more than 85 percent of St. Luke's goals in 2009.
"The thing is, last year's focus was really working the ball to Kim, Tara and Brook. ... This year we have a well-spread-out offense and we've worked on the basics of the offense," Helstein said. "We have great stick handlers this year and girls who are able to create as many scoring opportunities as those three did last year."
Those three smashed and shattered offensive records across the board, though, so one would have to believe duplicating that will be a tall, tall task. The captains on this year's team located at each level on the field: center Carla Nicasio, defender Chandler Ray and goalie Charlotte Lyons. Helstein praised all of them, but his quote about Lyons, who was magnificent in goal in 2009, stood out.
"I think she'll do more than duplicate [what she did last season]; I think she'll go above and beyond, just as she did last year," Helstein said. "Last year's success of the program, it would be ridiculous to not mention Charlotte's name with that. Yes, it's a team sport, but Charlotte played such a large role in that. She's not somebody who's looking at last year -- she wants to continue on. As a captain and as a senior I'm seeing a whole new Charlotte."
Lyons, who played on some club teams, has become the most vocal presence on the field, which is just what Helstein wants out of his goalie. He believes it's a positive the goalie should always want to be the most vocal player on the team.
But Lyons isn't the only one willing to gab; Nicasio has been nearly as audible, and Helstein said he wants his games to be loud.
The offense will be more spread out this year. The reason that will be possible is because "this is clearly and easily the most athletic team" Helstein's ever coached. The healthy mix of soccer players, basketball players and girls from other sports can allow the group to rely on speed and fast breaks to get their quick strikes.
The Crusaders will see contributions from senior, first-year player, April Walsh, along with juniors Ellie Oakford, Hannah Shaw, Allie Young and Hannah Buckman. Sophomore Sabrina Herbert has also opened some eyes in the early parts of the season. Caroline Price has been big on attack early as well.
As for the rest of the league, which is slowly but surely catching up with Greenwich Academy, Helstein said: "You never know what you're going to get out of this league. I think this league has become really well-balanced. You see teams that have been really strong in the past have some weaker areas and some other teams growing into a program come out really strong. I think it's very unpredictable."
Like St. Luke's defeating Convent of the Sacred Heart in 2009. That win last year was the first time St. Luke's defeated them in the history of the program. The team is not heavy in any individual class, and that spread between freshmen, sophomore, juniors and seniors should be good for the long-term health of the program.
So there will be a new approach with a confident team this season. Early returns are positive, and this could be the start of something special with this program.