Calling the North soccer team slow-starting would be an understatement.
The Redskins started the season 0-6-2 but have won five of their last seven games.
The drastic change has a lot to do with improvement by the defense. In its first eight games, North was outscored 18-2. In its five wins, North has given up two goals.
"Our defense as a unit has been playing strong lately," North coach Brian Lewis said. "We have improved steadily all year, but we were really frustrated that we didn't have more carryover from last year. In both seasons, we were nearly winless in the first half and then won most of our games in the second half."
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Experience has played a role lately. Jose Araujo is the lone senior starting on defense. Sophomore Abraham Martinez and Noel Martinez anchor the center while junior Jeffrey Wherritt and sophomore Carlos Najera guard the outside.
Offensively, the Redskins have only scored 10 goals, including three against Bishop Carroll its only multi-goal game. Jhovany Baltazar (two goals, one assist) and Edgar Anima (one goal, two assists) lead with three points each.
"We have struggled on offense all year, but recently we are starting to play as a team and are creating opportunities," Lewis said. "With more chances, we are starting to put in some goals."
Friday, the team had a big confidence boost defeating Andover 1-0 — the Redskins' fourth 1-0 win. Despite not playing a great game, the team was able to fight through some mistakes, Lewis said.
"We didn't allow them to have opportunities to score," he said.
Playing well now, Lewis hopes his team has learned from its early mistakes. Though their road in the playoff will be rough, Lewis thinks his Redskins could be a spoiler.
"If we can keep it going, we will be a tough matchup in the playoffs," Lewis said.
A little help, please — The Southeast Buffaloes will be rooting for Liberal today. Southeast, the City League champion, needs to defeat Goddard today and have Liberal defeat Dodge City to force a three-way tie between East, Dodge City, and Southeast for the No. 2 seed in the South Central regional.
If that scenario were to happen, East would be given the lowest seed of the three based on a tie-breaker, KSHSAA administrator David Cherry said. Seeding for Southeast and Dodge City would then be determined by a coin flip.