Jake Lapierre is hopeful of gaining acceptance into the United States Naval Academy after graduation, and given he’s the admiral at the back of the Winslow boys soccer team, such a career path makes sense.

On a Black Raiders team loaded with dynamic players in all areas of the pitch, the senior goalkeeper is a consistently reliable presence in net. Winslow’s second-straight appearance in the Class B state championship game is due, in no small part, to Lapierre.

“He’s a really good keeper,” Winslow senior center back Mike Wildes said. “I think he’s getting a lot of attention now, because he’s shown he can play. He’s probably one of the best keepers in the state. I have full trust in him every game.”

Lapierre, who earned all-Class B North recognition this fall, posted seven shutouts in the regular season and added an eighth in the regional quarterfinals. Over the last two seasons, the 6-foot-4 keeper has 21 shutouts in all, but he’s much more than a warm body who can make occasional saves behind accomplished defenders.

His height and athleticism commands the 18-yard box on set pieces, and he’s vocal enough to direct traffic flow in front of him.

In Thursday’s regional final against Washington Academy, Lapierre also showed off something that makes him an elite-level keeper. With the Raiders trying long counter-attacks to spring speedy attackers behind the Winslow back four, Lapierre played well off his goal line to gobble up errant pass after errant pass.

It kept Washington at bay, particularly in the first half, while Winslow found its footing.

“He’s as good as any keeper I’ve seen at coming out of the box, but also knowing when not to,” Winslow coach Aaron Wolfe said. “Some are good at coming out, but they can also overplay it and then you give up an easy goal. He knows when, because he does a really good job of reading the play. Sometimes you’ll see him come out and realize, ‘Nope,’ and he recovers and is still there when the shot comes in. He’s in good position.”

With possession, Lapierre is as good as having another field player for the Black Raiders. He’s adept at distributing the ball with either his hands or his feet to begin ushering play back in the other direction.

For an attack-minded back like Wildes in front of him, it’s invaluable.

“It allows us to play the ball more and almost rely on him in the back,” Wildes said. “If it gets by us, we can always count on him to help us out.”

“The defense is more comfortable, so they can take some risks you sometimes wouldn’t want to take because you know who you have behind you,” Wolfe said. “It allows you to be a little more relaxed and play a little more ‘dangerous,’ if you want to use that word.

“It allows us to play a little more free. The counter-attack starts with the keeper a lot of times, and he allows us to do a lot.”

A three-year starter in goal for Winslow, Lapierre admits his game did not mature overnight. A steady dose of off-season premier-level soccer helped him with both his skill set and his confidence. He values his ability to be involved beyond being called upon to only make saves, and he knows the team values that aspect, too.

“It’s very important. It’s part of the defense to take away through balls for the other team, being fast and being able to get around the box so they can’t use it as much,” Lapierre said. “It’s a big part of being a goalkeeper, knowing your position, where the ball could be going and anticipating everything.”

One thing he surely anticipated this season was another deep tournament run and the opportunity to defend Winslow’s Class B North championship.

“It means we can do our job consistently,” Lapierre said of winning a second-straight title. “This is the best group of kids I know. I love playing with these guys. We’ve all been playing together since we were little. We have great chemistry, and all the way through it’s been great.”

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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