Valley Center soccer coach Jeff Burger was forced to play nine new starters at the beginning of the season, two of whom had no little or no varsity experience. Despite that obstacle — and an injury bug — the Hornets have managed to keep their heads above ground.
Valley Center has hovered around .500 all season. The Hornets lost to Buhler 4-1 on Tuesday. The team's leading scorer Phillip Gurlof missed the game. Buhler double-teamed Robbie Mayber, Valley Center's other player with striking ability, and made it tough to get anything done.
"We can still go out there and win some games with one threat," Burger said. "But to go far you really need two threats."
Burger likes what his team is able to do when it plays at full strength. Mayber will return for today's game against Mulvane. Valley Center has enough athletic ability to counter its lack of experience.
"Coaches don't like to admit it," Burger said. "But 90 percent of your success depends on personnel, and the other 10 percent of it depends on chemistry."
Gurlof said he likes the relationship that he and Mayber have on the field. Mayber was the team's leading scorer in 2009, but found it advantageous to have another player with scoring ability. Gurloff just can't wait until they can play at full strength.
"I think when are able to play the rest of the season with the same team we will get better," Gurlof said. "But now it's hard with so many players missing practice and games."
Andover wins, no matter what — Andover hasn't missed beat while moving up to Class 5A. Coach Tracey Repp said before the season he was excited about the opportunity to test his team's abilities, and after starting 6-2-2 he can only envision the team improving as it prepares for the postseason.
"I love the schedule that we have," Repp said, "because it prepares us for the year in play. But we haven't been able to keep everybody healthy enough on the field all year long to put our starting lineup out there and see exactly what we have playerwise and teamwise."
Repp said that the tougher competition has forced Andover to become a better team even with the makeshift lineup he's fielded. Andover has had nine different starting lineups and has had various players rise to the occasion.
Goalie Lane White came in for Taylor Spencer, who injured his hip, and has a 4-1 record in his first year of high school soccer. Tyler Drum, an all-state defender, had a high ankle sprain and is just now getting back into the swing of things. The team's assist leader Garrett Repp says the team's ability to bond and play together has been a huge factor in their success.
"The fact that we have a really good record is such a morale boost," Repp said. "Because we don't know how good we're going to be at full strength."