Opinion: Life without Lowe in net
With the team losing just three players to graduation next year, the Basehor-Linwood High School soccer program would seem to be in great shape.
But when one of those players is Zach Lowe, who so adeptly filled the pressure-packed goalie position for so long, it casts some uncertainty on the future.
Lowe's play opened a lot of eyes this year.
After the Bobcats' season-ending loss to Maranatha, one of the Eagles players told Lowe he'd look for him in the MLS in a few years. And before a recent Bonner Springs game, one of the officials said that Lowe was the best goalie in the entire state.
Losing such a player would have many coaches wringing their hands. But BLHS coach Kevin Vincent isn't worried about life without Lowe. He knows his team will miss the senior star, but says he has a ready replacement in sophomore Matt Murrell.
"He actually started one game for us and did a fine job," Vincent said of Murrell. "I ended up going with Zach because he's a senior."
Murrell, a transfer from Texas, started against De Soto in the first game of the year. The Bobcats lost, but not because of Murrell, Vincent said. He said Murrell's strengths included agility and a vocal leadership style that contrasted with Lowe's quiet presence in net. Lowe also noticed other attributes that he liked in his young backup.
"From what I've seen in practices and games he's very aggressive and I like to see that in a goalie," Lowe said.
In a normal senior/sophomore relationship one would expect that Lowe would have been more of a mentor this year, with Murrell more of a protege. But that wasn't always the case. Coming from a different area, with experience under different coaches, Murrell was able to show Lowe a few things.
"He actually taught me to do that drop-kick where it hits the ground first and then I kick it," Lowe said. "I never really used to do that until he came and he started showing me up, so I had to start kicking like that."
By the end of the year, few goalies could show up Lowe when it came to punts or goal kicks. His ability to drive the ball the length of the field was a great weapon, and the one thing that Vincent and the Bobcats will miss the most next year.
"Zach's leg is just irreplaceable," Vincent said. "I don't think there's too many schools in the state, and it's not an exaggeration to say there's not too many schools in the country that have a keeper with a leg that can impact the game like Zach's."
Lowe said that joining a premier league team and playing soccer year-round helped strengthen his leg, and that the distance on Murrell's kicks would likely improve in his junior and senior years. With all four defensive starters returning, kicking might not be much of a factor for Murrell anyway. Vincent's hope is that the ball won't find its way to the keeper nearly as much in the next few years as it did this season.
But when shots do get by the defenders, both Vincent and Lowe feel confident that Murrell will be able to handle them. Which lets everyone breathe easy until next season, when the Bobcats hope to improve on a 7-10 record.
"This year we only had five juniors and seniors so I'm sure we'll be good next year," Lowe said. "There's no doubt in my mind we'll have at least a .500 season."