During his long run as a soccer coach at the college and high-school levels, Doug Williamson has always allowed his squads to pick their leaders on the pitch.
Williamson have veto power, but he wasn't about to pull rank when his Augusta Preparatory Day School soccer team selected Patrick Welch, Ian Evans and David Knerr as co-captains for the 2003 season.
"Their teammates chose wisely," the Cavaliers' coach said. "These guys lead both with their play and with their voice. They are providing important leadership, and they're playing really well."
Welch, Evans and Knerr are entering their third season as starters for Prep, and each brings different talents into a match.
"Vision is probably my strength. I just try to control the ball, play our system and hopefully win every game," said Welch, a senior center midfielder. "We've got a real good team. I think we'll be a good bit better than last season."
Augusta Prep soccer players Ian Evans (from left) David Knerr and Patrick Welch
Photo by Jim Blaylock
Evans has already improved his game. The senior uses speed to press the attack from his right-midfield position.
"Ian is playing the best soccer I've ever seen him play," Williamson said. "He seems more focused, more serious about soccer. I like the way Ian has stepped up this year and taken responsibility for what the team's doing."
The Cavaliers are coming off one of their best campaigns ever. The soccer excitement is brewing at Prep, and fan support is strong, but Evans is taking it all in stride.
"It's just another season for me," he said. "But I think we can do pretty well this year."
Knerr shares the same outlook. He has been playing soccer since age five, and the Prep senior can share the secret to developing talent for the sport.
"I would believe hard work and having a good drive to go after what you want," he said. "With that, I've been able to become the soccer player that I am."
Knerr puts his skills to use at the center-back position, where he leads Augusta Prep's sophisticated defense.
A defender's job is to read the action, but Knerr doesn't mind not reading his name in the headlines, where leading goal scorers steal the spotlight - his objective is to steal an attacker's thunder.
"Strikers score goals and we stop goals," he said. "That's my thrill out of it - not letting the other team score."
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