Emerson men’s soccer head coach Jared Scarpaci said that when athletes try out for his team each year, it’s hard to know what to expect. Some say they’ve played before, with not much to show for it. Others just turn up out of the blue and perform.
Jacob Lawrence knows how to play.
Though two years have passed, Scarpaci said he still remembers the first time Lawrence took to Rotch Field to try out for the team. Since then, Scarpaci said that he has developed into a dangerous weapon. Lawrence currently leads the Lions with 19 points and eight goals this season.
“He has incredible speed and foot skill and control with the ball,” Scarpaci said. “As a player, he’s one of the top in the league by far.”
The Virginia native and senior at Berklee College of Music started his collegiate soccer career as a sophomore. For Lawrence, however, soccer was not a main priority when choosing a college.
“I’ve played my whole life, but when it came to school, I wasn’t really going for athletics,” the forward said. “Even when I had the options to go to school for soccer, I was more concerned with what I wanted to do rather than go to some school just to play sports.”
Lawrence, a songwriting and music business major, said he got his start in his sport with his brothers, setting up goals in their basement and imitating the professionals they saw on TV. His father also played semi-professionally in Colorado, Lawrence said, before Major League Soccer existed.
On the field, junior midfielder Alex Sypsomos described Lawrence as a trustworthy person that the rest of the team can look to, no matter what position he takes.
“It’s interesting to see the different dynamic of each team every year because it changes as we lose players and gain new ones,” Sypsomos said. “The first year, we put [Lawrence] up front to score goals, and he did it. Last year, because there were so many new people, we had to put him somewhere else. This year, we put him in the middle and he’s still scoring goals and doing really well.”
Senior Juan Ossa, a teammate of Lawrence’s for the past three years, said that his development since his rookie season has been very noticeable.
“At the beginning, he had a player playing with him who used to give him the ball all the time,” Ossa said. “He didn’t have to work it as hard as he does now. He adapted, because once [former Lion Eric Dabdoub] left, we started noticing a harder-working Jacob. We saw him moving around the field more and coming back for the ball.”
Scarpaci said that Lawrence’s high soccer IQ and his tactical vision have allowed him to help teach other teammates the game more through his actions than his words.
“He’s become a leader on the team, definitely become more active,” Scarpaci said. “When we first had him, he was always a dangerous player. We needed to score goals, and we count on him now. He’s our guy.”
Lawrence has accepted his role as more of a role model on the team, calling it a natural step up from his prior role as mainly a goal scorer.
“Coming in my first year, no one knew what to expect of me,” Lawrence said. “[My role] was just, score some goals. Now it’s more inspiring the younger guys, help them learn and realize what they need to step up into. I firmly believe in leading by example. Show what you can do on the pitch when the time counts.”
Lawrence finished his first collegiate season as the Great Northeast Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year. Last season, he was named to the GNAC All-Conference Third Team. This year, he has been a key part of the Lions’ playoff push, scoring four goals in the six-game win streak that ended Emerson’s regular season.
As a competitor who began his college athletic career to little fanfare, Lawrence acts the same way now, Ossa said, letting his talent speak for itself.
“He’s not the most outspoken guy,” Ossa said. “He doesn’t really talk a lot. He just tries to do his best — he’s an example just by the way he plays. Anytime you see the guy play, it’s clear that he’s gifted.”
Grady can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.