Boys soccer notes: East recovers from midseason struggles
A four game losing streak may have been just what East’s (10-5-1) boys soccer team needed in the middle of its season. Not only did the Aces pull out of the slump with their current five-game winning streak — including a first-place finish at the North Cup — but coach Dylan Gruntzel learned a few important lessons about his team.
“We were in that mindset where we were ready to play our game, but hopefully the other team won’t show, but that wasn’t happening. Everyone was playing well against us,” Gruntzel said.
The Aces schedule got tough starting with a tie against Bishop Carroll (13-2-1), followed by losses to Southeast (3-13), North (8-7), Kapaun (11-4) and Northwest (15-1).
“We had to adapt to having a target on our back, and losing to Southeast was a big one and put us in a downspin,” Gruntzel said. “The biggest thing after a losing streak is once you lose two or three you start to think, ‘Can we win again?’”
Gruntzel made adjustments that are apparently working. Wins over Liberal, Berean Academy and Garden City have helped change the atmosphere on the team, giving it more confidence and focus on technical skills.
“We had a tough stretch in the middle that we had to get past and we’re past it. Now we got on a roll and hopefully we can keep going,” Gruntzel said. “We’re hot when the time is right. This is definitely the time you want to put together a winning streak.”
East will host North on Tuesday for its first Class 6A regional game. The Aces lost to North 2-1 earlier in the season.
“North’s a good team and if we take a day off against them, then we’ll lose; it’s very simple,” Gruntzel said. “They’ll punish you.”
Key leadership — Berean Academy’s senior leadership has led the team to a 7-4-1 record with key wins over Independent, Southeast, Buhler, Andover and Trinity, while finishing third at the North Cup.
“There’s nothing that can replace senior leadership. I learned that a long time ago, that it is important if you’re going to be successful, because you have guys who have been through the battle before,” Berean coach Russel Busenitz said.
Success in the North Cup offered a similar experience to postseason play.
“A tournament gives you that feel of the postseason, and a week from now we’ll be in the midst of that,” Busenitz said. “It gives you that whole behavior that we’re playing for something. There’s something at the end that we can accomplish as far as the tournament goes.”
Perfect finish — Northwest finished its perfect City League run Tuesday with a 9-0 win over Heights, claiming the City League title. The Grizzlies’ lone loss came against Derby in its third game of the season.