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Work never ends for Carlsbad keeper

12/12/2013, 11:59am PST
By Glae Thien, Special to the U-T

Lancers senior sets sights on Open Division title.

Carlsbad goalkeeper Matt Deemer's diligence in practice has paid off with wins.

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— On a school holiday years ago, the Carlsbad High boys soccer team was slated to start practice at 8 a.m. Lancers coach Jeff Riccitelli arrived a half hour early to set up.

Already, goalkeeper Matt Deemer was there, practicing by himself.

It helps explain how Deemer shared starting duties as a freshman, became a team captain his sophomore year, and last season helped lead Carlsbad to a San Diego Section Division I runner-up finish following two tournament titles during the regular campaign.

“Head and shoulders, this is the hardest-working kid that I’ve ever been involved with,” said Riccitelli, in his 23rd year guiding the Lancers. “Each year, too, we talk about what he can work on for the next season, and he comes back and he’s got it.”

Riccitelli got an idea of what to expect when he received an introductory email from Deemer before his freshman season and then saw him follow through on his intentions to make the varsity in the ninth grade.

“I pretty much told coach straight out, ‘I’m here to compete,’ ” Deemer recalled. “I worked hard, and he gave me a chance, nothing promised. Mainly, I said, ‘I want to get better. That’s what is first.’ ”

As that one early-morning workout demonstrated, too, Deemer doesn’t need to face shots from somebody else in order to practice.

“When I’m on my own, I work on my footwork,” said the 5-foot-10½, 155-pound Deemer, whose plans for college soccer are being determined. “No one really sees that in a game because they’re all looking for the amazing things, but for me, keeping it simple is the best save that I can make. That’s my goal every time.”

Originally a forward in youth soccer, Deemer switched spots to answer a team need at the time. Also, it helped to follow the example of his older sister, Ashley, a goalkeeper, who would eventually focus on cross country in high school.

Deemer has sharpened his skills as well since age 12 through ongoing tutoring from Guillermo Rodriguez, a former USD goalkeeper coach, who works with youths.

In his sophomore year, Deemer became a full-time starter in helping Carlsbad (12-9-6) set the stage for a breakout season. With 17 shutouts by Deemer last year, the Lancers (24-5) outscored the opposition 78-15 overall while making their first finals appearance in 20 years.

Now Carlsbad enters the new Open Division with Deemer poised as usual for the pressure inherent in his position.

“I feed into pressure,” Deemer said. “Forwards can miss several shots in a row and make the next one. For me, one mistake and we’re out of it. We lose. That keeps me focused and determined to get better.”

First in practice, first in leadership.

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