Strange as it may sound, Ryan Sargent’s biggest issue playing soccer was solved by spending some time down on the farm.
Sargent, a senior co-captain along with Alex Hatfield for the Lawrence High boys’ soccer team, is in his second year as the Cards’ starting sweeper. After a couple of well-behaved seasons on the JV team as a freshman and varsity as a sophomore, the intensity of varsity play began to catch up with Sargent last season.
“He’s a great kid, he just had some issues with some cards last year, some immaturity issues,” coach Jeff Molinelli said. “He’s always been a good kid, it’s just the game got a little emotional at times. I told him, ‘Dude, you’re a great kid, why let that kind of stuff happen?’”
Sargent admitted he was a bit of a loose cannon during his junior campaign.
“I just had to get over some of my emotions,” he said. “I got very emotionally involved in the game, and I kind of let it get the best of me. Over the summer I worked on myself, and learned to just walk away when I don’t agree with the call that was made. I think it’s really matured me
What’s interesting is how he learned to work on it. Some of it came during actual summer games; but there was another factor—his part-time job at Terhune Orchards.
“I work at a space where I have to deal with a lot of people, so I think it’s kind of come from there,” Sargent said. “Seeing different people and how they react to certain things has helped me keep my calm. I get to interact with people every day when I’m there. It exposes me to new people, and I learn from them and learn how to keep my calm if I’m getting frustrated.”
The result has been a more mature but still intense sweeper for the Cardinals, as Sargent has become a model of good behavior and the epitome of a team leader.
“He really grew up over the summer,” Molinelli said. “We decided to make him our captain and he’s been everything I knew he could be. He’s a leader, works hard every day, holds his teammates accountable. He’s first in drills, he’s doing a great job as a senior captain. We had a lot of conversations during the summer. I knew he would step up this year, and I’m honestly not surprised at what he’s doing.
“He’s enthusiastic about it, he’s emotional and I think now he’s controlling his emotions better and I’m really happy for him. He’s just everything I want him to be this year.”
Sargent and Hatfield are leaders of a defensive unit that includes first-year varsity goalie Foster Wakeman, senior Connor Monaghan and sophomore Dylan Adamsky. Molinelli said of Wakeman “We threw him in there this year and he’s done a great job communicating with those guys.”
Sargent played attacking center-midfield on the JV, but was moved to outside back as a sophomore and became the sweeper—a position not seen much any more in soccer—last year.
“We put him back there and our defense has been pretty strong the last couple years, and he’s definitely the main reason why,” Molinelli said. “He’s not the best goal scorer, but he likes to stop goals.”
When informed of that assessment, Sargent chuckled.
“I can finish in the box, they just don’t let me,” he said playfully. “Coach doesn’t give me the opportunity.”
In seriousness, Sargent knows that defense is his best position, and he embraces his role.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “I see the field better, make judgments. I’m not afraid to go in and win any 50-50s. I feel like I throw my body out there which some guys don’t want to do.”
Sargent feels the key to being the second-to-last line of defense is to have good vision. “You have to know where the other players are gonna play the ball, you have to get there on time, help out your teammates.”
Part of Sargent’s aggressive nature on the field comes from playing lacrosse since third grade. He feels soccer is his better sport, however, and hopes to play in college. His grade point average is over 3.0 and he is currently reaching out to schools to figure out the right fit.
When he’s not playing sports, he is watching them. A fan of the Manchester City Football Club, Sargent also roots for the pro teams in Philadelphia.
But he gets a bigger kick out of actually competing.
“Sports is physical, and it activates your mind too,” Sargent said. “It gives you something to do, keeps you in shape. Sometimes it can distract me (with schoolwork), but I’m pretty on top of my game in the classroom.”
And thanks to learning when to walk away when he would rather yell at an official, he is on top of his game on the field as well.