Kucer is Coach of the Year for girls sports – Lake County Record-Bee
MIDDLETOWN — Head coach Lamont Kucer checked all the boxes for the Middletown Mustangs during the 2019 girls soccer season.
After leading the team to a 14-0 record and a 12th straight North Central League I championship, Kucer watched his Mustangs avenge their only three losses during the regular season with North Coast Section playoff wins over Roseland University Prep, Fortuna and finally Arcata to capture the school’s first Division 1 crown and Middletown’s second overall sectional title in girls soccer.
Middletown went 21-3-1 overall with a roster that returns most of its key players for the 2020 campaign, which finally gets underway in December after being delayed four months by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For his team’s incredible season, Kucer has been named the Lake County Record-Bee Coach of the Year for girls sports.
“I could not have done it without the best assistant coach in the world,” Kucer said of his wife, Tracey. “She sees things on the field that I don’t. This wouldn’t have happened without her.”
While Kucer hasn’t been around for all 12 of Middletown’s league titles, he certainly has continued the incredible winning streak the Mustangs have cobbled together, and one that doesn’t show any signs of ending soon.
How does a school dominate a league so long and with a handful of different head coaches during that run?
“It’s a big deal,” Kucer said of the 12 consecutive NCL I championships, adding that there is a common denominator.
“We’ve always had a traveling team here in Middletown and that exposes you to players who are better than you,” Kucer said. “It allows your kids to get punched in the face and get right back up.”
Middletown’s players — now and more than a decade ago — also have been playing together since youth league, so they are quite familiar with each other’s strengths and weaknesses by the time they enter high school.
“We’ve taken them out of the county (on traveling teams) and taken our lumps, but we learned what the next level was like at a young age,” Kucer said. “So it’s not a surprise to us now.”
Key contributions from players who come from outside the youth soccer system also have helped, Kucer said of such individuals as team captain Abby Sabater, who played a key role during the 2019 season.
The support of parents has to be there as well, according to Kucer, who said the Mustangs’ parental support has been nothing short of outstanding.
“We are just a family and have all been through so much together,” Kucer said.
Part of the joy he experienced during the Mustangs’ big 2019 season was watching his two daughters, juniors Sophie and Olivia, play pivotal roles in the team’s success. Sophie was named league most valuable player for the second straight season while Olivia earned first-team honors.
“Having your owns kids on the team isn’t always the easiest thing, but they’ve worked their butts off,” Kucer said.
Lamont’s oldest daughter, Maddie, played on Middletown’s first section championship team back in 2012, so this isn’t the first time the Kucers have helped hanged a sectional championship banner on the school’s gym wall.
With the Mustangs’ 2020 season delayed by the coronavirus outbreak, Kucer faces a challenge of keeping his team focused in the coming months.
Social distancing on the soccer field will be absolutely no problem, according to Kucer.
“We preach that anyway,” Kucer said. “This isn’t youth soccer where everyone bunches up in one corner of the field. They need to keep their spacing on the soccer field.”
Middletown’s run of league championships isn’t likely to end soon as the Mustangs set their sights on defending as Division I section winners.
“I have 90 percent of my team back and we could pick up some other people (former players),” Kucer said. “We still have something to prove. They (last year’s sectional playoff opponents) didn’t give us the respect we deserved. I’m sure they’ll be better prepared for us now.”
The Mustangs should be better prepared as well.