Photo by Diane Cox
The East Alton-Wood River Oilers pose after their second-place finish at the Carlinville Kick-off Tournament on Sept. 4 in Carlinville.
WOOD RIVER — The East Alton-Wood River Oiler soccer team is coming off a record-breaking season in 2013 and seems to be maintaining that momentum as they begin the 2014 season.
After graduating eight seniors in 2013, the Oilers started their season out strong with a record of 4-1-0 through Tuesday. They made it to the championship game of the Carlinville Kick-off Tournament against Jersey, bringing home second place after falling short 1-0. The Oilers placed third in the tournament last season.
“I knew we had the talent, but getting multiple new starters to come together can be a challenge,” EA-WR coach Mike Lawson said. “Our only surprise so far is how quickly the team has gelled on the field.”
Prior to 2013, the last year the Oilers had a dominant presence was in 1992, when they set the school shutout record with eight shutouts, as well as the goals scored against benchmark by only allowing 30 goals. EA-WR had an overall record of 13-7 in ‘92.
In 2013, the Oilers etched their place in history with a 17-4-1 mark and broke the shutout record with 15 shutouts as well as blowing away the goals scored against record by only having six goals scored on them for the entire season. With new senior leadership, the 2014 Oiler soccer team is setting a pace to give last year’s performance a run for its money.
“We have leaders in every aspect of our team,” Lawson said. “They started kick-arounds in early April and continued throughout the summer. Our guys are putting in time year round with indoor sessions and have a willingness to work hard in the offseason to develop.”
The EA-WR soccer program was in jeopardy in years’ prior, having only 13 players go out for the team in 2007. Since then, the Oilers have been on overdrive to increase their numbers and bring talent out of the shadows.
“We’re creating an environment that welcomes and encourages players’ development through teamwork and commitment,” Lawson said. “It starts with the older players mentoring the new players.”
Seniors Nic Daily, Devon Gilreath (four goals and two assists), and Brennan Augustyn (one goal and one assist) have led the charge for the Oilers and have been working with the underclassmen over the last year to keep the team up to the challenge.
Sophomores Luke Sims (six goals and two assists) and Jordan Schmidgall (two assists) show promise for the future of the EA-WR program. Junior brothers Nick and David Barrett are covering offense and defense, with David scoring goals in three games while Nick has taken the full-time role as the varsity goalkeeper. Nick has only allowed two goals in the first five games of the season and secured 26 saves.
“It’s been interesting to see how far we’ve come and improved,” Daily said. “We know we want it to continue after we graduate. Team bonding has been really important with our group; my freshman year there were cliques; now everyone hangs out together and it’s made us better.”
Setting goals for a team is one way to keep momentum going throughout a long season. So the Oilers look at the big picture but continue to take it one game at a time.
“We want a win in the regional,” Gilreath said. “We were concerned starting off the season with new kids and new positions, but it’s working. We want to improve and go deeper past regionals ... it’s doable.”
EA-WR is back on the road at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 15 at Valmeyer and welcomes Metro East Lutheran at 4:30 p.m. Sept. 16.