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Vikings’ defense looks to run tight ship

GENEVA – Last year’s Geneva boys soccer team dropped several low-scoring matches, giving defenders plenty of opportunity to finger-point elsewhere.

Vikings center back Drew Klaus takes a different approach in sizing up this season. While he thinks the team’s offense is capable of being more productive, he’d also like to see a seasoned Geneva back line tighten the screws on opponents even more.

“Last year as a team, we lost at least six games, like 1-0,” Klaus said. “Our defense is there, we just can’t have the mental lapses at some points of the game to let it up. If we can get those out of the way, then I definitely think teams will get frustrated with us.”

All four projected starting Geneva defenders have starting experience, though Matt Sweet missed much of last season in the aftermath of a concussion. Sweet is back as Klaus’ partner in the middle of the defense this season, another source of optimism that the Vikings will be a tricky group to score upon this season.

“He’s like the most vocal kid out there and he’s healthy, so hopefully he can stay healthy all season,” Klaus said of Sweet.

Right back Matt D’Onofrio and left back Ethan Nims, both seniors, also started for much of last season, giving the Vikings one of the most experienced back lines in the area.

Geneva’s prospects for minimizing opponents’ scoring also took a turn for the better with the return of junior goalkeeper Duncan Turnbull to the program. At 6-foot-6, Turnbull towers even over the 6-4 Klaus as the tallest member of the team.

Turnbull was three inches shorter when he last suited up for the Vikings – mostly at the lower levels – as a freshman. He focused on club play with Chicago Fire Academy in sitting out his sophomore year.

Turnbull said he missed playing high school soccer and is ready to make use of that added height when the Vikings’ season begins Tuesday at Glenbard East.

“[The added inches] help me on crosses, definitely, to get above the other team, to help dominate in the air, and just give me a little bit of extra height just to reach some of those high balls and reach farther in the goal, so it helps a lot there,” Turnbull said. 

Vikings coach Ryan Estabrook spoke highly of Turnbull, who wears size 16 shoes.

“He’s really everything you want out of a goalkeeper,” Estabrook said. “He’s got size, he’s got athleticism and he’s a student of the game.”

While defense and goalkeeping appear to be strengths, Estabrook also likes the Vikings’ potential to click on the attack.

Senior Jason Lagger is the team’s leader in the midfield, flanked by Calen Colbert and Matt Luetzen, while Estabrook also likes the progress he’s detected from goal-scoring threats Matt Waldoch and Ryan Anderson. 

“I can’t really quantify how much Ryan Anderson’s confidence level has improved and also how much Matt Waldoch’s athleticism improved,” Estabrook said.

The Vikings hope that collection of talent is enough to make for a higher-scoring team, even with the graduation of former standout Beck Nebergall.

If need be, though, the Vikings won’t be afraid to play more 1-0 matches – only with the results swinging the other way this season.

“I feel like we’ll be tough,” Turnbull said. “A lot of experience back there. We’ll be looking good at the back.”

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