BY DAVE LINK
Lucas Nordin took a break from soccer in late May. Just a short break.
The recent Bearden graduate needed one after the Bulldogs lost to Brentwood 1-0 on May 23 in a Class AAA state quarterfinal match between two nationally-ranked teams.
Nordin’s record-setting career came to an end, and so did his three-year quest for a state team championship.
Bearden lost in the Class AAA state finals in Nordin’s first two seasons. His freshman year was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“After state, I kind of chilled for a week,” Nordin said June 27. “I went to the beach with my friends, which was nice. We had a scheduled trip. I honestly needed some time to get away from soccer and whatnot because it’s kind of frustrating. Honestly, I’d rather have won a state championship.
“Coach (Ryan Radcliffe) was telling me I had a good, pretty successful high school career. It’s nice getting the All-American and Gatorade Player of the Year, but I always wanted to win that state championship. But it is what it is. So I kind of took the time to get my mind off the sport. I didn’t do anything for a week. I didn’t run. I got a little bit out of shape, but it was good. I missed the sport and I just got right back to it.”
He got back to his regular grueling workouts, preparing for soccer at East Tennessee State University.
Nordin, who repeats as the 5Star Preps Player of the Year, is finishing his summer season with 865 Alliance, a team comprised of local current and former college players.
When he’s not playing, he’s doing conditioning and fundamentals work.
“I know I’m going to miss home,” Nordin said, “but starting my next chapter is what I’m trying to do right now.”
Nordin finished three goals shy of the program’s career goals record, and he set the single-season goals record in 2022.
HIS BEARDEN CAREER
Radcliffe knew he had a special player when Nordin began practicing with the Bulldogs in spring of 2020.
“I think we had like two or three scrimmages and he was already leading us in goals as a freshman that year,” Radcliffe said. “I would have loved to see how he would have looked as a freshman, because we had some other people playing up top that year who could have helped him and produced. He would have gone really under the radar.”
Nordin missed several games due to injury as a sophomore, but still finished with 10 goals as the Bulldogs (20-4-1) advanced to the Class AAA state championship game before losing to Houston 2-1.
Then came his record-breaking junior year.
Nordin set Bearden’s single-season record with 38 goals – breaking the record of 33 held by Gabe Alvarez (2016) with a hat trick in the quarterfinal over Franklin – but the Bulldogs lost again in the final, this time to Brentwood 4-1.
“When you look at like the breakdown of goals scored his junior year,” Radcliffe said, “it was like 38 and the next person was like maybe 10, if even that. It wasn’t necessarily that we didn’t have the players to do that. He was just producing at an elite level.
“We had some top players, Julian Strickland and Dylan Kolnick. It wasn’t like he was the only talent on the field. He just got on a run there and he couldn’t be stopped. I think if you ask him, he would attribute a lot of that to the fact that Dylan and Julian were able to set him up and help him.”
Nordin again was the focal point of opposing teams as a senior, drawing double- and triple-team coverage against the best of competition.
“You look at our schedule,” Radcliffe said, “I think at one point in the year, according to MaxPreps, we were the top-ranked team in the country in strength of schedule. Again, he’s producing when playing top competition across the state.”
Radcliffe said Nordin didn’t just keep producing on the field; he took on a new role for the team.
“The cool thing this year,” Radcliffe said, “was I challenged him to be a leader for us and told him at the beginning of the year, ‘You’re going to score and produce this year, but we as a team will only go as far as you’ll lead us.’ That’s kind of out of his comfort zone. He’s not necessarily the most vocal player. He just wants to show it on the field in his play.
“It took a little bit, and about midway through the season, he was the most vocal player on the field, in the locker room, on the bus. That was a huge reason for us to get to state. It ended unfortunately the way it did, but one loss the whole year, I think a lot of that you can attribute to his leadership.”
When the Bulldogs drew Brentwood (25-0) in the state quarterfinals, Nordin’s chances of breaking Alvarez’s career goals record hinged on a run at state.
Nordin, with 27 goals for the season and 75 for his career, got four of the Bulldogs’ 18 shots in the shutout loss to Brentwood.
“It doesn’t matter,” Nordin said of the state draw. “We would have played (Brentwood) at some point. At the same time, it’s a bit frustrating because like the first game, we don’t drive over there the night before. We go the morning of the game. It was basically the state championship in the first round. It was very interesting.”
A BRIGHT FUTURE
The Nordin name has become well known in Bearden athletics in recent years.
Tyler Nordin, a 2020 graduate, was a standout forward and Division I prospect for the Bulldogs’ basketball team before suffering a knee injury during his senior year.
Justin Nordin is a rising sophomore point guard for Bearden and finished the 2022-23 season in the starting lineup.
“They are athletes, first off,” Radcliffe said of the Nordin brothers. “They’re some of the best athletes that I’ve seen, and just walking the halls, they look like athletes and they handle themselves like athletes. But then he has those intangibles of wanting to do more and not being satisfied.
“On off days, Lucas was still on the field. Even during his senior year, this past season, when school let out for seniors, I would have my class and Lucas would be down on the field at 9 a.m. and we were supposed to be playing a game later that night. He has that work ethic and drive to want to achieve more and want to do more.”
Radcliffe expects Nordin to be an impact player at ETSU, which plays in the Division I Southern Conference.
“I think it’s a spot where he can come in and find a position and start right away,” Radcliffe said. “When you look back on it, I think Lucas is going to go in as one of the top players to put on a Bearden jersey. I fully expect him to go in and have record-breaking years at ETSU and make an impact right away. I think that’s who he is.”
Nordin said the ETSU coaches are counting on him.
“They’re saying I definitely can fight for a starting spot at one point in the season, which is pretty awesome because college ball is a whole new level,” Nordin said. “I’ve got to come in there really hungry and ready to compete. I’m just waiting to play. I don’t think I need to get any more ready. I’m just waiting for the season to get going.”