Cats claw out victory in opener
For the first time in four years, De Soto soccer team opens with win
The 800-pound gorilla is gone.
The De Soto High soccer squad removed the gorilla from coach Darren Erpelding's back last Thursday by securing a 1-0 victory over Basehor-Linwood.
Previously, Basehor and the Wildcats have faced off in De Soto's opener, and for the past three years, the Bobcats sent the team home lugging an 0-1 record.
"I knew it was going to be tough, they're always tough," Erpelding said. "And they've beaten us three straight times, so they were looking for that (a fourth).
"They don't have a ton of experience, but the experience they have obviously carried over. They've got a good team. By midseason they're going to be very, very good."
Much of the game was played in the middle of the field, as De Soto notched 11 shots-on-goal to Basehor's seven.
Around the 22-minute mark in the first half, however, Paul Oswald took a pass from Octavio Villa, got a free run at the goal and tucked the ball into the left side of the net. Villa got the assist on the play.
"It was a great shot," Erpelding said.
But for the rest of the game, it was a defensive struggle for both teams. The one good chance that Basehor did get at scoring a goal was thwarted as goalkeeper Tyler Phongsavath was standing in position but the ball careened off the head of defender Joe O'Neill.
One good look could be considered a big accomplishment considering the Wildcats debuted a brand new back line of defense and started one freshman, John Williams, at left back.
"I thought our defense played pretty strong really. (Williams) was a little bit nervous but I thought he did a great job," Erpelding said. "They never got a great look."
A switch at about the 25-minute mark saw Parker Williams replace John Williams. It's a switch that Erpelding plans to continue to keep his fresh player on the field since the two players are interchangeable, he said.
Erpelding also commended sweeper Duncan Henderson on his job of controlling the back, and Sammy Seibolt's performance switching the ball from side to side in the middle of the field. Erpelding also praised the job of Phongsavath in the net, notching seven saves and yet another shutout. Phongsavath is now 1.5 shutouts away from tying the school record for career shutouts.
That strength as a defensive unit was one reason that De Soto wasn't haunted by what Erpelding called a loss in focus with around 22 minutes left in the game.
"They kind of came back and took a little bit of control of the game," Erpelding said. "They didn't necessarily make me nervous, because I knew we were strong in the back, but I had a little cause for concern because we did lose our focus, and we didn't gain it back as fast as we should have."
The loss in focus and failure to put open shots in the net are the two things that Erpelding pointed to that will be points of emphasis during the break in action before the Wildcats' Sept. 4 game at Paola.
"We had a lot of good chances. That game could have been 3, 4-0 if we tuck the ball away like we could have," Erpelding said. "We got a lot of breaks, a lot of free runs at goal, and we just didn't tuck it away and once we start doing that we'll be alright. We can't plan on winning everything 1-0."
As for Paola, Erpelding expects a physical game and said the Wildcats usually don't get a lot of calls. The Panthers have a very young team, but that focus that was lost during the second half of the Basehor game could make the difference.
"If we don't come out focused and play well, we're going to come back with a loss," Erpelding said. "And it's their first game so they'll be jacked up for that, too."
De Soto's game against Paola will start at 4 p.m., with the junior varsity game scheduled to follow.