MONROE — Soccer has taken Kacey Lawrence to some pretty cool places, but Thursday night at Benedict Field, she begins a campaign back at home with her Masuk family.
“It’s fun,” Lawrence said before practice Tuesday. “All the friends I grew up with, getting to play soccer with them is great. Scoring a lot of goals in front of my family, friends, it’s great.”
Lawrence has been to camp with the Under-14 and Under-16 national teams and was one of three Connecticut players recently named to the American Family Insurance All-USA preseason team. A junior this year, she’s committed to Michigan for college.
In the meantime, she’s one of the key cogs in the attack for Masuk, which opens the season against defending SWC champion Immaculate on Thursday night.
“I love having Kacey on the team. She’s great to have to work with up top,” said Masuk senior Gia DeLorenzo, who has 36 goals of her own over the past three years. “We make each other look good. Our goal is to have a winning season.”
The Panthers will honor longtime coach Eleanor Brainard before that season opener, then head into the new year with a new boss, onetime Trumbull standout Jay Golesky.
Golesky had met Lawrence before coming to Masuk but has gotten to know her as a coach through the preseason.
“She’s definitely focused, she’s definitely driven and she’s definitely very humble,” Golesky said. “Those three traits right there are tough to come by. She’s got great sportsmanship, team leadership. All the girls love to be around her. She’s very quiet. She likes to do all her leading on the field, playing-wise.”
Lawrence was barely walking when she first got onto a soccer field, tagging along when her older brother went to play. When she got to be about 9 or 10, she said, she realized teams wanted her to play with them and thought she might have a future in the sport.
“I thought I should pursue this more than I have,” she said.
Her play in Connecticut carried her to national team camps in California and Colorado.
“There, it’s the highest competition in the country, which is insane,” Lawrence said. “To compare against these players, it makes you that much better.”
She committed to Michigan last year, falling in love with the campus and hoping to study something related to the field of medicine. The Wolverines changed coaches this year, but she said she has spoken to new coach Jennifer Klein on the phone.
“She’s so great. I think it’s a really great addition to the team,” Lawrence said. “It was a little nervewracking at first, but it’s all coming together now, which is great.”
As she goes into her junior year, scoring a lot of goals is one of her goals: She’d like to score 30 this year after putting in 41 over her first two seasons.
Golesky said Lawrence makes the players around her better, creates space and moves without the ball. He knows that Lawrence will draw other teams’ attention, surely.
But there, especially, is where it’s nice for the Panthers to have a couple of Division I players to feed off each other: DeLorenzo is bound for UConn.
“We always try to see each other on the field, know where each other’s at, work with each other to put it in the back of the net,” DeLorenzo said.
Lawrence enjoys that give-and-take. “It’s so great to have someone up there who’s competitive and such a great tactical player,” Lawrence said. “I think we’re going to score a lot of goals this season just because of that.”
With the likes of Christina Moniz at center midfield and Susan Mathews on defense, the Panthers feel they’ve got a deep team two years removed from a run to the Class L final.
And they’ll have Lawrence at striker, with that focus, drive and humility that her coach sees.
“She’ll go around on the field and just be helping other players up that she knows, that are her friends. It doesn’t matter what team they’re on, she’s always helping everybody up, and, I almost want to say, hesitant in going even harder at her friends,” Golesky said.
“I’m telling her ‘let’s go, let’s play hard, don’t worry about your friends, your friends want to beat you, too.’ She’s just so humble. For me, it’s nice to see that.”