Thursday, September 19, 2013

Denis Propels Lakeland In 2-1 Win

Last season as a freshman, Johnny Denis earned his chops on Lakeland’s varsity. Thrust into meaningful minutes, the youngster surfaced as an innate playmaker with a knack for drawing in the defense feeding forwards.

During the pre-season, however, Lakeland coach Tim Hourahan noticed Denis’ rapid evolution.

Beyond the sophomore’s vision and proclivity for creating offense, he’s developed a scoring engine. Emerging from a free kick specialist to a scorer capable of shredding defenders off the dribble; Denis has been green lighted.

You could certainly see why.

In the opening game of Yorktown tournament, it was Denis who lifted Lakeland out of 1-0 deficit and into a 2-1 come-from-behind victory.

“We probably made a few adjustments in that second half,” explained Hourahan.

“Yorktown is really going to compete in this league, hopefully it will come down to us and them. It was their first home game, a new turf field, but what you saw was a kid who lit up the last 17 minutes of the game.”

Denis was methodical in hunting for his shot. Constantly fighting through augmented pressure, the sophomore was forced to carve through 3-4 players on the go-ahead goal.

 It was the first two goals of his career but could be a portent of things to come for this Lakeland team, a youth movement steadily filling the star power void from 2012.

The central midfielder, already in the national pool, put a perma-smile on Hourahan’s face when he returned to the Hornets after flirting with the Academy route.

“You can put the kid up top, he would be a tremendous—but we need him in the middle of the field,” explained Hourahan.

 “His setup ability is so good that whoever receives the pass really only has to take one touch and shoot it. Sometimes Johnny’s doing all the work for the forward as well. He just possesses tremendous vision.”

Lakeland absorbed a rough off season blow, when graduation claimed 12 seniors. This year, the focus is flipped towards returning to prominence. The 2013 team mantra, “Get it Back,” is indicative of this.

Against Yorktown, Lakeland’s defense was critical in the second half. Backboned by John Pinto, a seasoned senior, the Hornets employed a tightened clamp-down defensive effort. They were limited, without its starting goalkeeper.

“We hit the cross bar twice (in the first half), we played much better in the second half offensively,” explained Hourahan.

 “I give a ton of credit to the defense.”