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Lincolnton soccer readies for tough Southern Piedmont Conference play

Ray Gora / LTN
Several Lincolnton players attack a ball in the air against Shelby.

MICHAEL GEBELEIN
Sports Editor

The Lincolnton Wolves men’s varsity soccer team has high hopes for the 2012 season.
The team exited the playoffs in the third round in 2011 and has 11 seniors on its roster, along with several younger players who are already making an impact on the field. Lincolnton (4-1-1) is off to a fast start to the season, and most recently defeated Maiden 9-0 on Thursday. Lincolnton’s only loss in six games came against Shelby, last year’s regional runner-up, in overtime.
“We’re happy about the start,” Lincolnton head coach Ian Leith said. “We’ve had a pretty good team effort. If there’s one weakness I could say we have, it’s our ability to start the first 10 or 15 minutes at the level we finish at. By the end of the game we’ve been the dominant force in pretty much every game. We’re where we want to be, especially considering the injuries we’ve had.”
The Wolves have had to cope with the absence of senior midfielder Kevin Orias, one of the larger players on any field, and a scoring threat from his midfield position. Orias suffered a meniscus injury in the preseason, but is expected to be cleared to play next week. Leith said Orias will slowly work his way back into playing fulltime.
“If there’s a person who is the heart of the team, who keeps the intensity level up, it’s the one who has been out the entire season,” he said. “He’s a crucial part of the team, but we feel like we can compete in the conference at the level we’re at right now without him, in terms of playing on the field. But the sooner he’s back on the field, the better.”
Lincolnton has had no trouble on the offensive side of the ball so far this season, outscoring its opponents 19-4. The Wolves are currently ranked 12th, according to Eurosport Scoreboard’s poll of North Carolina 2A teams. Leith said he prefers to keep his team’s strategy flexible, rather than working out of a set scheme.
“We vary depending on the situation,” he said. “We’ve been pretty fluid, and we’ve been able to smoothly transition, and not just in terms of formation, but in terms of tactics too. Our mental aspect of the game is there.”
The Wolves travel to Patton High School on Thursday before beginning Southern Piedmont Conference play against the Lake Norman Charter Knights on Monday. The Knights, like the Wolves, are ranked 12th in the state by Eurosport Scoreboard’s poll of 1A schools.
“We’re less than a week away from conference play,” Leith said. “We have to put it together. That’s a tough way to start, against Lake Norman Charter. They’re a good team, and they’re good on their own field. It’s going to hurt not having Orias at that game, but we’ll play some of our younger guns in there.”

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