HAWAII GROWN REPORT
PHOTO COURTESY LOYOLA MARYMOUNT
Senior Stephen Carlson is not taking any match for granted.
Carlson keeps kicking
The same qualities that made Stephen Carlson (Punahou '04) team captain of the Loyola Marymount men's soccer team this season are what have him in the running for one of the most prestigious awards in the country.
On Wednesday, Carlson made the short list of candidates for the Lowe's Senior CLASS Award, which honors the work of senior student-athletes both on and off the field.
Carlson, who will graduate with his degree in environmental engineering in December and has been active in serving in his community, is also a vital part of the soccer team that is off to a 1-1-2 start this season.
Carlson is the starter at left fullback and after one of the worst seasons in school history, is being counted on to provide leadership to a team searching to find its winning ways.
"This year looks a little more positive," Carlson said. "We just couldn't find a way to win (last year). We always found ways to lose."
LMU finished the season 3-16-1, its first losing campaign in nine years, and was last in the West Coast Conference.
It wasn't the type of season Carlson had come to expect from the Lions, who made the NCAA tournament his freshman season.
"It's hard to explain," Carlson said. "I think we had a lot of talented players. Sometimes the ball didn't bounce our way. We kind of got unlucky a couple of times."
As one of the top players coming out of Hawaii in 2004, Carlson chose LMU over Santa Clara, Duke and Brown among other schools.
The combination of coaching, location and academics gave the Lions the edge, plus LMU had been to the NCAA tournament three straight years.
The Lions reached the tournament again in Carlson's freshman season with a blend of experienced seniors and talented freshmen.
Carlson sees a similarity between that team and this year's squad. Of the five players who have scored this season, four are freshmen and the other is a sophomore.
"The team right now reminds me a lot of (the '04) team because that team there was a lot of senior leadership, but you also had my three roommates who were freshmen and me who contributed a lot. That's the feel I get for this team."
The big difference for Carlson is he is no longer the new guy who doesn't know any better. He's the wily old veteran, instead.
Carlson excels in the role, which he's just happy to be in after a string of injuries cost him his '06 season.
Fighting back from a groin injury he suffered during the summer, Carlson tore most of the ligaments in his ankle in the third game of the season and was forced to get a medical redshirt.
"I took a shot and when I landed, some guy was sliding through and I got caught underneath his leg," Carlson said.
The injury put a huge damper on his season, but not his ability to find the positives in life.
"I was playing non-stop for six years before that and for the first time, I got a significant amount of rest," he said. "Maybe it was kind of a blessing in disguise."
Recovered and refreshed, and with the disappointment of last season behind him, Carlson enters the final months of his collegiate career excited at the potential the Lions have shown.
Despite only one win in four games, LMU has played a brutal schedule. Every team the Lions have faced is ranked in the Top 25, and it doesn't get any easier this weekend with games against No. 9 Northwestern today and No. 11 Illinois-Chicago on Sunday in the Chicagoland Classic.
"Our coaches usually try to get us a pretty good mix of opponents," Carlson said. "We try to play a couple of East Coast and Midwest teams to show that side of the country what West Coast soccer is."
No matter what happens this season, Carlson doesn't want his soccer career to end just yet. He plans to attend combines in the winter and hopes an opportunity comes his way.
"That's the plan at least," Carlson said. "I guess we'll see what happens."