Conifer hopes new coach works out

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Lobo players look for some stability with Barnes in charge

By Michael Hicks

Cameron Loucks has seen this before. It’s a new season and the Conifer senior has his fourth different boys soccer coach in as many seasons.
Matt Barnes, a mainstay with the Evergreen Stingers, jumped on board this spring as the team’s fourth head coach in four years and eighth in nine seasons. A former Lobo himself, Barnes brings a soccer pedigree with him. But more than that, Loucks hopes Barnes brings stability.
“It’s just tough having such a high turnover rate,” Loucks said. “Each coach had a different mindset. When you’re changing styles every year it messes with the balance of the game.”
How so? Consider that Conifer has missed the 4A state playoffs the past three seasons and has just one playoff win — in 2006 — since 2003.
But Barnes’ presence, which has been quite noticeable this season, including at last week’s team camp, has been noticed by the players.
“I’m liking the direction we’re going for the players that we have,” junior Travis Tadra said.
“Our coaches have been working with us and helping us out, teaching us better soccer, how to play together as a team.”
But not everything has been a bed of roses. Last year’s starting goalie Austin Scott tore his ACL earlier this summer and had surgery. He will miss his senior season. Almost a year ago, starting goalkeeper Sam Beckett injured his knee during a team practice and was lost for the season.
So Barnes, who just happened to play goalkeeper for the Lobos back in the day, not only has to groom a new keeper in time for the Sept. 2 opener at Lobo Field against Monarch, but he has to do so while changing the culture that’s surrounded the team in recent years.
“It’s going to be a challenge, and I’m looking forward to the challenge,” Barnes said. “I know both Curt (Dennis) and Josh (Farr), who stepped up today, are looking forward to the challenge. Josh is a natural athlete, who stepped in and did really well. I’ve worked with Curt in the past with the Stingers. He’s got a great foundation. But getting them acclimated to the position and comfortable back there and understanding the position that’s going to be the challenging part for both goalkeepers.”
Senior Andy Wickham has also been taking reps at goalkeeper. No matter who gets the starting gig, just having Barnes on the sideline considering the team’s tumultuous run can only be a good thing, said Dennis.
“It helps a lot. He knows what he’s doing,” the Conifer junior said.