Loss doesn’t dissuade Wildcats
A 3-0 loss was just what the De Soto soccer team was looking for?
Not quite, Wildcat coach Darren Erpelding said, but given that his team's 2-1 over its last three games, that the team's loss came against the two-time defending Class 1A-4A state champions, and that even in that loss the Cats played their best soccer to date, he'll take it. "It was the best game we've played," Erpelding said of Tuesday's loss to Kansas City Christian. "Christian is still one of the top three teams in the state. They're still extremely good, but we played the best game we've played."
De Soto struggled throughout the game against Kansas City Christian, failing not only to score against the soccer powerhouse, but nearly to even get a shot off, letting loose only two the entire game.
Erpelding's optimism about the game and his team stems more from the defense, however, and the recent boost it got. While moving the team's top scoring threat, senior Zach England, back from his scoring position to play sweeper may have seemed like a big gamble at first, it's one Erpelding says is starting to pay off.
His evidence comes not only in the none-blowout against Christian -- though, the third-year varsity coach was quick to note the same team piled up seven goals on the also traditionally strong Maranatha. Rather, Erpelding took heart in Thursday's 1-0 win against Paola.
Bumping England back may have done more than just improve the team at one position. It may have improved it at several, he said.
"That's working our really well," Erpelding said. "It gives us more options because our defense is more confident. Our guys on the outside aren't afraid to run out of the back and they're not afraid to make a stick.
"It frees us up to be more aggressive."
Defense was about all the Cats had to show after the loss to Christian. De Soto fell behind 1-0 to a free attacker on the backside, and trailed 2-0 at the half. Goalie Tyler Phongsavath lost Christian's third goal through his fingers in the second half, but even then the team was pleased with its defensive stylings.
Though it only ended up with one goal in the last two games, De Soto put as much pressure on a defense as it had all season against Paola. Seven different Cats notched shots, 18 raining down on the Panther goal in all.
Sophomore midfielder Duncan Henderson, a player Erpelding tagged as an offensive option with England out of the picture, let loose four shots and in the second half scored the team's only goal.
It was the first of his career.
"I thought we'd score a bunch of goals this season, but moving Zach to the back, I think we'll be OK with scoring one or two goals a game," Erpelding said. "Christian is one of the top teams in the state, and they only scored three goals. To me, that's a really good sign for us.
"We're going to be much stronger defensively, so if we score one or two goals, I feel strongly that we'll win that game."
Now, the Cats are hoping their at-times strong offense and increasingly reliable defense can combine to leave their current .500 record in the dust.
De Soto will travel to play at 6 p.m. Thursday against first-year program Spring Hill. The Cats will then travel for rematch against Baldwin -- De Soto won the first game this season 4-1 -- before welcoming Spring Hill to De Soto for the second game against the Broncos.
"We have a good chance to get three straight going into a game against Maranatha. We can't have letdowns, though," Erpelding said. "We're right there. By the end of the season, if things keep going the way they're going, we're doing to be darn good."