G. Blake Eldridge ’96 H’12 P’25 works daily inside his office in the Mackenzie Administration Building as Lawrenceville’s Dean of Discipline. He has held several roles in his time at Lawrenceville, such as that of an English teacher, a department chair, and Dean of Students before settling into his new position. While you may see Eldridge teaching a religion class or sitting in on a disciplinary committee during the school day, after classes, he heads to the fields to coach Lawrenceville’s Boys’ Varsity Soccer team.
As a student at Lawrenceville in the 1990s, Eldridge played soccer under Coach Brian Daniell H’89 ’06. When asked what it is like coaching a team he once played for, Eldridge stated that it is “enjoyable every day. I get to enjoy the same [school] day, week…that I did as a student. I love seeing our current players make the same kind of memories that I and my teammates made together. We won a lot more matches than we lost, but I still remember the stuff at practice more clearly than most of our matches.”
Eldridge certainly tries to bring back his nostalgia on the field. During practice, the team trains on grass instead of the new turf and plays an older style of two-touch soccer through the midfield. Since graduating in 1996, Eldridge has noticed a lot of changes made to the program and facilities the team uses. The main difference, Eldridge said, is the “overall quality of play in our area.”His team “had a number of club players and seven who played college soccer, [including] four other kids who were intercollegiate athletes in other sports.” Those who were wholly devoted to the sport “were relatively rare...Now, most teams are filled with players who play club soccer outside of school, and each match of our season is a battle.”
There has also been a significant shift in the quality of play in high school soccer since Eldridge’s days. Lawrenceville’s Boys’ Varsity Soccer team hopes to have an impressive run this year, contending for a Mid-Atlantic Prep League (MAPL) championship, and possibly getting into the state tournament. Eldridge says, “I expect us to do well in all our competitions, MAPL, Mercer County, and Prep A. We have talent up and down the roster, and we work harder than our opponents. As we get more familiar with each other and our own brand of play, and as our first touch continues to improve, we will really start to put opponents under pressure. Most of our prep competition has been playing together since the spring with only a few breaks. We are still learning our team and personality and recovering our sharpness. As a referee remarked to me after a recent match: ‘When your boys play two-touch soccer, they're unstoppable.’”
The team is coming off an impressive 3-1 win versus the Hotchkiss School and a 4-1 win versus the St. Andrew’s School. Eldridge is ready for a successful term: come to Woods 3 or the turf to watch him lead the Boys’ Varsity Soccer team through the season.