MARSHALL - The Marshall boys' soccer program made strides last season under first-year head coach Pat Johnson, doubling its win total from two to four and building numbers for the program. Johnson resigned in May to focus on other commitments, but another member of the coaching staff is coming back in a new capacity with the hopes of keeping the momentum rolling.
Andrew Larson was named the new head coach of Marshall soccer Monday after a year serving as an assistant under Johnson. It will be Larson's first high school head coaching stint and he said he's committed to helping the build a stable and successful team.
"I'm just excited to see the program grow," Larson said. "I think last year we had a lot of growth, we had a lot of players, and I think my goal, as I told (Marshall activities director) Bruce (Remme), is that I want to be playing our best soccer at the end of the year, whether that means competing for championships, going to the state tournament, or if it just means winning some games. I think that's always been my goal is to be making progress through the season and have everyone playing their best soccer at the end of the year."
Larson is a Cloquet native who played high school soccer for the Cloquet Lumberjack program, where he was a first team all-conference selection. He also played at the premier level in the Gitchi Gummi Soccer Club summer program in the Duluth area. Larson graduated from The College St. Scholastica with a degree in elementary education and returned to Cloquet in 2011, spending a year as an assistant coach with the high school team.
Larson moved to Marshall and coached the Marshall United Soccer Association U14 team last summer before serving as the Marshall High School team's assistant during the 2012-13 school year. He works as the youth development director at the Marshall Area YMCA and is coaching young kids in a YMCA soccer league this summer.
Remme said Larson's soccer background and his passion and enthusiasm for teaching soccer made him a logical choice to take over the reins of the relatively young Tiger soccer program, which was started in 2005.
"Andrew has a solid foundation of soccer skills that will allow him to use his teaching background to effectively teach the soccer skills needed to improve the program," Remme said in a press release. "Additionally, Andrew is a super role model for the student-athletes in the program to follow.
"Andrew's experience as an assistant in our program will help to provide familiarity and consistency for our student-athletes as he provides the leadership to continue to move our program forward."
After resigning, Johnson said he felt the coaching staff succeeded in helping the players get back to having fun and enjoying the team aspect of the sport during the 2012 season. Larson said he enjoyed his time working with Johnson and added that he wants to keep a similar atmosphere encompassing the program.
"The reason I played soccer is because I loved it and I thought it was fun," Larson said. "I expect the best out of my players and I expect them to be class acts on and off the field, that's what was expected of me, but I also love to have fun and I think there's a balance between both of those."
With few seniors on last year's roster, Larson will have plenty of familiar faces returning for the upcoming season. But missing will be leading scorer Trevor Johnson, Pat Johnson's son, and Ethan Hart, another scoring threat.
Larson hopes the experience that the Tigers return can make up for the loss of two of the squad's go-to players.
"I think those two are definitely big losses, they were the scorers of the team, but this year one of the advantages that we do have is we have a lot of players that have been there for a while," Larson said. "I think we have really great leaders on the team and we have kids that are ready for the season. We're definitely going to be feeling stuff out and trying to figure out where we'll get our scoring from, but I think we have great leadership."
It's not just next year that Larson is looking towards. He sees the potential when he looks at the program and its future and he is committed to helping turn that potential into success.
"I want to see the program grow and do well, and I wouldn't just jump into something and not see it through," he said. "I'm excited to see the program grow and really be able to develop it, so I'll stay here for a while for sure."