Piedmont girls head soccer coach Brad Brucker dares opposing teams to play down the center of the field.
With senior midfielder Caitlin Lewis patrolling the heart of the field, Brucker is confident most teams’ attacks will begin and end there. So much so, that Piedmont’s defensive scheme is built around Lewis’ ability to protect the middle of the field.
“She can absolutely destroy a midfield,” Brucker said. “She disrupts everything the other team does. We center our entire defensive scheme around funneling players towards her. She seeks and destroys everything in there.”
When Lewis is on the field, she can almost single-handedly shut down another team’s offense. During her sophomore season, Lewis and Piedmont led Deer Creek 1-0 through a half. But Lewis was forced to leave the game in the second half with an injury. The Lady Antlers took advantage of her absence by scoring six second-half goals.
“She is that kind of difference maker,” Brucker said of the USAO signee. “Against a good team she can be a three or four goal difference for us.”
She comes by her defensive ability from years of practice. Unlike most players her age, Lewis willingly traded in goal-scoring for defensive prowess as a preteen. At 12-years-old she played center midfield on her club team, and has embraced the role of defender ever since.
“I loved it,” she said. “Stopping the ball, winning possession back and playing it back to my team is my favorite thing to do.”
Injuries and youthfulness were the only factors that kept Lewis from dominating regularly as an underclassman. Now a mature senior, Brucker expects Lewis to become a consistent force for a Piedmont squad with a deep postseason run on its mind.
“When she’s right mentally and physically, I really do believe she has the ability to be the best player in the state,” Brucker said. “As far as how impactful she is, that’s how talented I think she is.”
Because of her focus on defense, Lewis has been quiet offensively throughout her career, but early in her senior season she has scored twice – both against Harrah – to double her career goal total from two to four.
“We’re trying to get more offense out of her, because she has the ability,” Brucker said. “That’s another piece of our offensive puzzle that we’re trying to put together.”
Lewis is playing with more confidence than ever before, and for the first time feels like one of Piedmont’s leaders. Which she thinks is an important part of this team having a successful season.
“Individually it’s going to take a lot of leadership from me for us to accomplish everything we want to. That’s something I haven’t been good at in the past, but I’ve been working on that a lot,” she said. “Team-wise, it’s going to take everyone working hard through every practice and every game.”
Lewis and fellow seniors Bianca Cardenas and Vanessa Esparza will make up the first senior class to take part in four fully-sanctioned seasons of soccer in Piedmont. The program was formed five seasons ago, but Piedmont played scrimmages only in Year One of the program.
“Caitlin and that senior class have been the building blocks of what we’ve done here,” Brucker said. “I’m hoping for at least a state semifinals appearance this season, and Caitlin is a big reason why.”