Now that the Wings have reached the halfway point, coach LeBaron Hollimon feels he can give a fair depiction of their MISL season, at least more accurately than when they limped to a 1-5 start.
Wichita has gone 5-3 since then and played particularly well in its last six games, winning four in which it held opponents to 11 points or fewer.
The Wings bulked up their offense during the offseason but a dedication to the other side of the ball is what Hollimon believes has the Wings back to respectability.
“Things are moving in the right direction, we’re playing better,” Hollimon said. “We identified defending as a big issue, so we started fixing that. Then our offense started to sputter a little bit so we fixed that. Things are finally coming together.”
Hollimon stayed true to his defense-first philosophy even in light of the Wings’ worst defensive showing of the season. After allowing 20 points combined in a pair of wins, Wichita was scorched for 24 in a blowout loss to Missouri 12 days ago, surrendering nine to the league’s highest scorer, Byron Alvarez.
Less than a week later, the Wings trimmed Missouri’s total by more than half and earned a 12-11 win at Hartman Arena, holding Alvarez scoreless on four shots. Hollimon said the improvement was a result of an improved mental approach.
“What worked between the first game and the second game was (that) we committed to defending a lot better than we did in the first game,” Hollimon said. “It’s a long season. You’re going to have games where things just don’t work, and that just happened to be that game for us.”
Offensively, the Wings have been led by forwards Geison Moura and Freddie Moojen, who have combined for 73 points and are both among the MISL’s top 20 scorers. Wichita acquired several top scorers in the offseason and added a pair of offensive threats in an early-season traded with Syracuse, but Moura and Moojen have stood out so far.
That hasn’t changed Hollimon’s approach to organizing the offense, however. A philosophy based on balance has worked in helping the season turn around, and it seems to be working to enable Moura and Moojen to flourish.
“I don’t want to say we’re going to build (the offense) around one or two players,” Hollimon said. “That’s not my style, that’s not our style. I think once you start doing that, then you pigeon-hole yourself to start being more easily defended by teams. I like that, the last game against Missouri, we had six guys who scored goals for us.”
With issues solved offensively and defensively, the Wings are looking to build momentum in the second half. At 6-8, the extension of their current hot streak is urgent because the schedule becomes more difficult down the stretch and the final five games are on the road.
“By having the slow start, it was a silver lining for us,” Hollimon said. “It allowed us to identify areas that we weren’t as strong in and identify areas that we needed to address early on in the season so we didn’t get that false sense of hope, and so that when we do hit this point of the season we don’t have to deal with it now.”