Lakeland High School seniors Kyle Jones (goalkeeper), Kyler Sparks and Logan Higbea defend against visiting Western Branch High School on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers lost 10-1.
Lakeland High School seniors Kyle Jones (goalkeeper), Kyler Sparks and Logan Higbea defend against visiting Western Branch High School on Tuesday night. The Cavaliers lost 10-1.

Cavaliers fall 10-1

Published 11:01pm Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Lakeland High School boys’ soccer team has struggled this year with a tiny roster and only a few experienced players, but it has a new coach who is on a mission to pass on his love of the game to his players.

The Cavaliers hosted a Western Branch High School team on Tuesday with skill, discipline and a roster twice its size. The result was a 10-1 defeat.

Lakeland’s new coach, Nizar Arfaoui, grew up in the North African country of Tunisia playing soccer, and he eventually served a five-year stint on the senior professional team Stade Tunisien. After his playing days were over, he came to the United States in 1998 on business and has enjoyed living here.

But he comes into a situation at Lakeland where the team has struggled for years and the players have an expectation when facing imposing teams like the Bruins.

“To be honest with you, this is not the mentality that you need to approach when you come and play against an opponent,” Arfaoui said. “Usually, it’s supposed to be like this: ‘I don’t care who the opponent is. All I care is, between us and them, there is a ball, and I’m going to try to perform and (give) 100 percent.”

He does acknowledge, however, that the disparity in team size is an important issue that needs to be addressed.

“There is no balance at all,” he said. “Kids are going to lose interest in the long run. It’s very important. It’s not fair for the sport.”

Next year’s district realignment may aid in this, though it is not a guaranteed fix.

Another major disparity that Arfaoui has faced has been between the experience levels of players on his team. Suffolk does not feature as many opportunities to play the sport year-around as can be found in neighboring cities, but Arfaoui pointed out a few players on his roster that have shown great ability and have even aided him in training the less experienced players.

The first is junior midfielder Nolan Knights.

“This guy is excellent so far, in any aspect — tactical, technical, the way that he’s trying to help his teammates,” Arfaoui said.

He also praised senior Logan Higbea, who has also played well in the midfield with Knights.

Freshman Jordan Hollins has displayed skill in the midfield and as a forward and Arfaoui also made a point to highlight senior forward Quedre Willis.

“He’s got speed, he’s got techniques,” Arfaoui said. “He is good in the attack and is one of those that you can depend on.”

Arfaoui’s goal for the remainder of the season is to help his team to compete and not lose the will to play in the face of daunting circumstances.

“I’m on a mission right here, because to be honest with you, the sport has given me so much,” he said. “I’m from a country that the only thing they play is soccer. So, I love the game and I’m trying to pass that to them. I want them to love the sport, regardless of the outcome.”

Lakeland (0-3, 0-1) hosts Oscar Smith High School on Friday.

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