Merced High School soccer coach Christina Schiewek knew losing her top defender would have a big impact on her team’s season.
She just didn’t know how big.
When senior sweeper and captain Alyssa Lawry went down with a torn ACL and meniscus, the Bears were 6-0-1, still had an experienced defense and were in the thick of the Central California Conference title race.
Minutes after Lawry’s injury in a vital league game against Turlock on April 7, the Bears gave up a late goal, sparking a 1-3-1 slide. They finished 12-6-3, reaching the Sac-Joaquin Section Division I playoffs but losing in the first round to Enochs.
“As soon as she was gone, we started losing,” Schiewek said. “The defense just became completely disorganized, and these were experienced kids back there.
“It took us forever to figure out what was going on, and finally we realized that Alyssa needed to be part of what we did. We started having her read the lineup just because she meant so much to the team. She’s pretty much the smartest kid I’ve ever met, so she fit right in as an assistant coach.”
Lawry’s impact on the field – and off – earned her the conference Defensive Player of the Year honor. She also was named the Sun-Star’s Girls Soccer Player of the Year.
“There’s no doubt it was a disappointing season,” said Lawry, who tried to play through the injury twice before getting a doctor to confirm the ligament tear. “Things were really clicking for us, and it was my senior year. No one wants to go out with an injury, but I resigned myself to it pretty quickly.
“I did what I could to help the team after that. It was strange, because I’m so used to seeing everything from the back. It was kind of a different perspective from the sideline, and I offered advice when I saw it.”
If Lawry thought it important to share, her teammates listened.
Her knowledge and understanding of the game were well respected among her peers. It helped her excel at a position where she was often matched up with faster strikers. One of the school’s top academic decathletes, Lawry used anticipation, her ability to read angles and a willingness to be physical to help even the playing field.
As evidenced by the results on the pitch, she came out on top more often than not.
“She’s phenomenal on the field and off,” Schiewek said. “She’s an athlete for sure, but she’s not the fastest player on the field. She just reads the game so well and knows how to cut people down when she has to.”
Lawry said her familiarity with her fellow defenders gave her the freedom to be a more aggressive last line. The fact that two of those three players share her last name didn’t hurt.
“Getting to play with both of my sisters (Baylee and Taylor) made this season really special,” Lawry said. “We just know each other so well. Sometimes, all I have to do is give them a look and they know what I want them to do.
“Even with the injury, I really enjoyed this season. We bonded as a team way more than I ever expected, and I think that helped me get through hurting my knee. I enjoyed being out there with these girls so much, I didn’t feel sorry for myself.”
Sun-Star staff writer Sean Lynch can be reached at (209) 385-2476 or email@example.com.