Maintaining focus is key for Rangers in 2020

Traci Westcott/The Herald
Forest Park’s Conner Knies moves the ball down field during a 2019 boys soccer game at Cedar Crest Intermediate School in Bretzville. Forest Park defeated Vincennes Rivet 1-0.


FERDINAND — Forest Park boys soccer coach Mike Foerster knows his players aren’t going to like watching tape of their sectional semifinal loss against South Spencer, but he thinks revisiting that moment can illustrate the Rangers’ biggest shortcoming.

“I think the biggest downfall was getting towards the end of the season, we just lost focus,” said Foerster, who’s team finished 8-8-2 last fall. “I know the returning players aren’t going to want to watch that again, but we’re going to force them to so we can eliminate those mistakes. I think we can learn a lot from that.”

Beyond the sour memory, the Rangers are eager to get back on the field and gear up for another season. There’s a lot to do in a little bit of time before their first game against the Washington Hatchets on Aug. 20. The Rangers have to replace seven seniors, six of whom were starters. They also have to find another goalie as junior Dylan Weyer won’t be returning this season. A lot of players will be moved around the field, but reinforcements may be on the way.

Foerster is excited about the potential of the new players, and some of them could find themselves in starting roles during the season. Luke Hagedorn had a solid season on the middle school team, and Foerster thinks he can translate that success onto the varsity level. Noah Muller is another freshman who could see significant minutes in the fall.

As for the returning players, junior J.D. Kerber will be back to lead the charge for the Rangers. Kerber was the team’s leading scorer last year and will likely drive a lot of the offense again, but Foerster believes he’ll have more help this season. One of those guys could be junior Conner Knies, who Foerster said is always thinking a couple plays ahead on the field. Junior Spenser Wolf could also step up big for the Rangers. Ben Kluesner is the team’s lone senior, but Foerster is impressed by the leadership he’s been demonstrating in the early going.

Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Heritage Hills' Luke Leffert, left, and Forest Park's J.D. Kerber fight for control of the ball in a 2019 game in Lincoln City. Heritage Hills defeated Forest Park 4-1. 

Foerster wants the Rangers to be a strong possession team that can work its way up the field methodically instead of using wild and frenetic shooting. They’ll need to hone their ball control skills, particularly their first touches, to make that a reality.

“Touches shouldn’t be a game decider, but it has been for us in the past,” Foerster said. “That’s hurt us in the past, and if we can clean it up, we’ll be in good shape.”

He also wants the Rangers to set a more physical tone of play earlier in games. Foerster believes that’s an area the team has lagged behind in the past, which led to mistakes later in games when they fell behind. But if they can come out from the start playing harder, he thinks that will serve the team better during the season.

“Last year we turned it on a little bit,” Foerster said. “The boys know if you’re playing soft, get down a goal or two and play harder, the referee is going to notice that. They’re going to think, ‘Well you’re playing harder and a little more dangerous.’ If we can come out and play physical the full 80 minutes, we’ll give ourselves a chance every game.”

But the big key will be maintaining focus throughout the fall, even at times when it feels like the season is dragging.

“Training can get mundane sometimes,” Foerster said. “All boys just want to play games and scrimmage, but we have to focus on the small things. If they can stay focused, I think we’ll be fine.”

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