Lassiter (11-0, 4-0 in Region 5AAAAAA) has shown it can come from behind to win matches, and preserve one-goal leads. Only twice have the Trojans beaten teams by more than six goals. Five of their wins have been by one goal and two have been determined by penalty kicks.
This season also patterned last season when they won their first 11 matches, which put Lassiter on top of the Class AAAAA state poll, and in the nation by the ESPN Rise spring soccer ranking. Then Walton and Wheeler upset the Trojans in region play, making them fight their way to the state quarterfinals on the road.
But it’s a new season and a new coach. Sam Dietrich, a former assistant coach at Pope, has kept things simple. He hasn’t instilled a certain style of play that’s making these players click. Lassiter’s game plan under Dietrich is focused more on making adjustments based on what his opponents give him.
“There’s been times where the defense had to come through and hold on to the clean sheet,” Dietrich said, “and there have been times when forwards had to come up and score.”
Dietrich is also known to switch lineups with his senior-laden team when needed. He also plays players in different positions if he has to and is good at keeping his bench productive. And Lassiter doesn’t have that superstar that it can rely on. Different players step up in different games and goals are often scored by different players.
Alex Champion is listed as a defender but has been the hero up top in some tight Lassiter wins. One of those games came against 5AAAAAA rival Milton when he scored the game-winner in overtime to beat the Eagles 2-1 in overtime in Lassiter’s region opener. He also provided the game-winner in Lassiter’s 2-1 win over Mill Creek.
“We have a determined group of players who want to have a common goal in line and it’s about what they will do to achieve that goal,” Dietrich said. “There have been games where we had to come back and they’ve been willing to make these changes and work hard.”
That statement proved true against Roswell last Tuesday when the Trojans rallied from two goals down in the second half to beat Roswell 4-3 in penalty kicks. They gutted it out late in the second half, getting goals from Clay Dimick and Justin Black to send it into overtime.
Then the fate of the match came down to the sixth kicker from each team and the goalkeepers defending the net. Shaw made the save for Lassiter and Munear Abousaud came through with the game-winning kick.
The confidence of the Roswell win carried over to Friday’s match against Wheeler where the Trojans posted a comfortable 5-0 shutout over the Wildcats behind two goals each from Champion and Abousaud.
Lassiter will have two region road matches next week at Etowah and Woodstock before hosting Walton after spring break to conclude its region schedule.
“Our biggest team strength is group unity,” Dietrich said. “We can’t rely on individual efforts. They have to work together as a group.”