The Lafayette Lancers’ strong goaltending has been a key to the successful season the squad is having under first-year coach Ryan Butchart.
Lafayette (10-3-1) returns to action Monday at Ladue in a 4:30 p.m. game at the Ladue West Campus.
“Now it is time for us to keep wanting to improve and get better,” Butchart said. “The toughest part of the season is just getting started.”
The Lancers are fresh off winning the Parkway Tournament.
A key for this season has been the play of the goalkeeprs and defense. Lafayette has recorded five shutouts. Netminders junior Nate Gabris and seniors CJ Jaggie and Carson Campbell have been stingy this fall for the Lancers.
“I truly believe that we have the best goalkeeping in the state this year,” Butchart said. “CJ Jaggie, Nate Gabris, and Carson Campbell are all fantastic goalkeepers. CJ and Nate left the academy to come play for Lafayette this year, and it has been a great thing for all three of them.
“They push each other every day in training and they have formed a family-like bond amongst each other. It is fun to watch. Defensively, we are starting piece things together. We have a great defensive line, all seniors, and they have played a big role in our five shutouts so far. Now it’s time for them to all grow even more and push to become better.”
Lafayette opened the season playing in the Suburban GAC Tournament. The Lancers finished second behind Rockwood Summit.
“What stood out to me about my group was that we kept two shutouts in the first three games,” Butchart said.
The Lancers blanked Liberty 5-0 and Francis Howell North 3-0 but lost to Summit 4-1.
After a loss to Marquette, Lafayette ripped off five conseuctive victories. The Lancers entered the Parkway Tournament with a 7-3 record.
“Before the tournament, we were playing pretty well,” Butchart said. “I think that we are still finding our stride collectively as a group, but things are going well for us.”
Butchart said he believed his club could win the tournament.
“Our expectations going into the tournament were to win it and to also play consistent soccer,” Butchart said. “We were 10 games into our season and it was time for us to hit a consistent patch of form. I told the boys to go out and work on being consistent and play with unpredictability and dynamism. They did just that.”
Lafayette battled Parkway Central to a 0-0 tie. Butchart said his squad played well in the match.
“The first game against Parkway Central was a great high school soccer game,” Butchart said. “Although it was 0-0, both teams played well. It was a physical game and there were some great chances for both teams. (Senior forward) Matt Kanan struck the crossbar in the second half for us which was our best chance.”
In their next game, the Lancers rolled. Lafayette scored a 7-0 victory over Parkway North. Kanen had 3 goals and an assist.
“Matt was fantastic against Parkway North,” Butchart said. “He has been such a consistent force for us offensively, and I am proud that he had that kind of performance. I think that may have opened the floodgates for him.
“He puts himself in great positions, and now he’s finding the net. We are hoping he continues to do so as we approach districts. I am very happy for him.”
Lafayette also got goals in the win ove the Vikings from junior midfielder Ben MacInnes, senior forward Finnegan Stewart, senior defender Dylan Stovall and junior forward Randle Smith.
In their final game, the Lancers stopped Parkway West 3-0. The goals came from Kanen, junior forward Mitchel Grant and Stewart.
Butchart liked what he saw in this triumph by the Lancers.
“After the Parkway West victory, the boys showed me grit, perseverance and the will to win,” Butchart said. “It was our third game in less than 17 hours. We were bruised, beaten and exhausted and they still went out and put in a great performance.
“The boys were very excited to hear we had won the tournament. I think the part that excites them the most was that we were the only team not to concede a goal. We are all very proud of that.”
There was no all-tournament team named. However, Butchart know one Lancer who definitely would have made it.
“The player who stood out most through the tournament was Dylan Stovall,” Butchart said. “A senior in the defensive line, he has stepped up this year and been a force for us. He hadn’t played soccer in five years. (He) came to tryouts, and (has) impressed from Day One.
“He works hard every day and you can see he is a winner. His story is amazing and I think he will help push us onwards after this tournament.”
Now, Butchart is looking at the stretch run before district play begins. After the match with Ladue, the Lancers host Webster Groves at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. In the following two weeks, Lafayette will play three games in each week.
The Lancers have improved on what they accomplished the last two seasons. Lafayette won eight games last fall and only seven in 2017.
Now with 10 wins, the stakes get higher for Lafayette before the postseason arrives.
“I am hoping that this title helps kickstart the last 10-plus games of our season,” Butchart said. “We have a tough schedule coming up, and we are going to need to play at a high level if we are going to make a run.”