LHS soccer reloading after slow start

Loudon High School’s Kaiden Valdizon attempts to make a pass Monday during practice.

The start of the 2021 season has not gone as planned for the Loudon High School soccer team, but the Redskins are hoping to bounce back into the win column with two important District 5-2A opponents on the schedule over the next six days.

“I think we expected a slow start but maybe not this slow,” Yoni Espinoza, LHS head soccer coach, said. “I think we’re trying out different guys in different positions, trying to get our form. Them understanding the system is pretty hard, but I see a lot of positives with the young team that we have. The seniors are stepping up and trying to lead a little bit more, but I think we’re on the right path. The results don’t show it and we’re struggling, but I think the path is still there and I’m very positive about that.”

The Redskins started the season March 16 with a tough 5-4 loss to Cumberland County High School.

Loudon then fell 2-1 March 27 to McMinn County High School in the Cleveland Classic Tournament and was scheduled to play Chattanooga Christian School. The match was canceled due to inclement weather.

The Redskins followed up April 1 with a 3-0 loss to Howard High School to put the team at 0-3 to start the season.

“As you can see with the results, it’s a bad start,” Jovanny Espinoza, LHS senior, said. “A lot things that we’re working on in practice is the midfield because we have to build the midfield obviously. We’ve got a lot of new players and I think as of right now, we’ve only got three seniors starting, one junior starting. It’s just a bunch of new guys from last year because of the season getting canceled, so I guess we’ve just got to work on communicating because there’s a lot of shy guys on the team. We’ve got to get that communication going, and they’ve got to know what’s expected from them.”

The Redskins have benefited from an experienced roster the last several seasons.

“We have a lot of inexperienced guys, and I feel like my job and a lot of the other upperclassmen’s job is to show them what Loudon soccer is to us,” Luke Amburn, LHS senior, said. “It’s quick, fast-paced, building up from the back, not long ball, we don’t play to react and stuff like that. We have a lot of raw talent and with a few years of development I think we could have a really good team. Again, that just comes with experience and that’s something we’ve got to work on.”

Yoni believes the team’s overall attitude and athleticism have been major positives.

“I think it’s attitude more than anything because it’s a complete different level coming from middle school to high school and now having to play against basically adults,” Yoni said. “The transition for them to understand that, ‘Hey, we can’t really be standing around and we have to move together,’ I mean it’s a big change for them. We have a really good sophomore class, but they don’t really have any experience from last year. You add the freshmen this year and they’re trying to understand it, which makes me happy. I think we have that and that’s why I have a pretty positive attitude, even though we have the losses.”

The Redskins traveled to Clinton High School on Tuesday after News-Herald presstime for the first District 5-2A match of the season.

The next match will be 6 p.m. Thursday at Roane County High School to take on the Kingston Yellow Jackets in the second district matchup of the season. Loudon will then host a talented Anderson County High School squad at 6 p.m. April 13 for a third consecutive district contest.

“This week is very important and, kind of contradicting everything I’ve said, we’ve got to put points on the board,” Yoni said. “When it comes to district, we’ve got to do everything we can to get those points. I think the coaching staff understands that we’re in a growth process so if we can steal some points, we’re good. The objective is May, and so we’re looking at that big picture.”