Head coach Derek Taylor is trying to build a program that will have sustained success. So far, he is succeeding.

It wasn’t an easy process. The road was long. The losses piled up at first.

The Lake Center Christian boys soccer team stuck together, though, and that commitment is paying off this season.

The Tigers are 10-2 this year with their only losses coming to state-ranked powers Hiland and Western Reserve.

“This same group of seniors that has won 10 games this season actually lost to Western Reserve 10-0 as freshmen,” Lake Center head coach Derek Taylor said. “It would have been really easy for them to walk away after that. They bought into the process, though, and we’ve been seeing improvement game-over-game since then.”

It’s been a true team effort for the Tigers. Being a small private school has presented its own unique set of challenges over the years.

“Going into the year, we lost six seniors,” Taylor said. “We had no goalkeeper and we had two starters move out of state that were large contributors. People around the program looked at me and asked, ‘How are you going to win?’ ”

Taylor’s answer to that question was to trust the players he had. He also worked hard to take the pressure off those players.

“I looked at what we had and I thought if the guys were willing to focus on themselves and improved (during the season) that was going to be a success,” Taylor said. “I said we weren’t going to determine our success on wins and losses. We were going to determine success on if we were getting better or not.”

The players responded by overcoming those losses and not only improving individually, but posting double-digit victories this season. It’s a group that has overcome injuries, position changes and transfers by sheer force of will.

“These guys play with heart,” Taylor said. “The thing that stands out is how selfless they are. It’s turned out to be a great season. These guys all bought in and worked hard. I feel very blessed to be able to coach them.”

Lake Center has also earned those wins against a quality schedule, which is a point of emphasis for the Tigers.

“When we started the program, the schedule was not what we wanted,” Taylor said. “I’ve always said I’d rather lose to solid teams and have the experience of playing them than anything else. We’ve been able to do that and it is something we are still working on.”

The gritty play and the positive results are starting to get noticed by the community. That could be another big factor in helping the program grow.

“Our numbers continue to improve,” Taylor said. “Malone co-head coach Kevin Stock has a son on the team and he runs freshman camps for us in the summer. There are more kids who want to be part of the program and that’s a great thing for us. Athletics is a great way to grow a school and student-athletes are the type of kids we want.”

To reach Cliff call 330-580-8494 or email cliff.hickman@cantonrep.com