Rose Hill advanced to the Class 4-1A boys soccer finals last season thanks to their offense.
If the Rockets expect to make a return trip, it will be on the strength of their defense.
Rose Hill (9-1) has given up five goals, including three to Berean Academy in its only loss of the season. The Rockets have six shutouts.
"We are a little bit scrappier this year," coach Jerry Treat said. "I think they knew they were good last year, but this season they know they're not as talented in some areas."
One of the major reasons for improvement of the defense is sophomore Dom Swindler. Capable of starring on both offense and defense, Treat moved Swindler to defense in the fourth game. The Rockets have given up one goal with Swindler playing defense.
"He really can see a play develop and that really helps stop the other team's attack," Treat said. "His communication skills are also a plus. He makes sure everyone knows what's going on."
Swindler's play is a big pick-up, especially with the injury to Josh Campbell. Campbell, a senior, broke his leg in the loss to Berean, the second game of the season.
Losses equal stepping stones for Maize South _ Maize South's 3-1 win over Campus on Tuesday night was one of the few building blocks that have ended on a good note. The Mavericks (2-10) have had a difficult inaugural season.
"It's been difficult because we didn't know what to expect," Coach Marlon Rios said. "We didn't have high expectations so wins and losses don't matter. We just want to improve."
There's a lot of room for improvement. There are no seniors in the Maize South program. The Mavericks have 26 players, junior varsity and varsity, including 13 juniors.
Rios said several players have made strides. Defenders Tyler Huneycutt and Steven Arroyo have anchored the defense, along with goalkeeper Jordan Nguyen. The offense has really started to find its rhythm with the improved play of Ian Blankenship and forward Chase Menzie.
While his team is taking its lumps, Rios believes that the learning experience will pay off.
"The kids are coming around. Besides being young, we are very inexperienced," Rios said. "Our kids are getting playing time and now that we are seeing where everyone fits, we are trying to end the season successfully."