There are a handful of losses from last season that Valley Center soccer coach Jeff Burger never got over.
There was a pair of 10-0 shutouts to Maize and Kapaun Mount Carmel, and a 4-0 loss to McPherson that crushed Valley Center's shot at an AVCTL Division II league title.
"We had a decent team last year, but in big games we had a tendency to fold up early and give up a lot of goals," Burger said. "Those were some games where we really just did not play well. The girls haven't forgotten that."
After Kapaun ended the Hornets' season, Bugner told the team he was going to rebuild from the ground up.
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"We're not going to let that happen again. We need to be competitive every night," Burger said. "We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores. I felt like we had all the pieces, it was just a matter of getting those pieces in the right place."
At 9-4, Burger's puzzle has started to take shape. The Hornets won five straight before losing 1-0 to Maize on Tuesday.
Like last year, Valley Center's shot at a league title will depend on the outcome of today's game against McPherson.
"The game against McPherson is far more important than the last game against Maize," Burger said. "The title is out there for us if we want it."
Valley Center has five players with at least three goals this season. Burger uses the balanced attack to set up mismatches against opposing defenses.
Six players have scored a goal in the past five games. Sophomore Madison Wedekind and senior Cara Dick have combined for seven goals during the stretch.
"We don't want to be one-dimensional," he said. "We have some dangerous kids up there and that is really helping us in terms of matching up. That makes it pretty hard for teams when they have to eliminate more than one threat."
Crowded race — Goddard is also in contention for the AVCTL Division II title.
The Lions share a spot atop the standings with Andover Central, McPherson and Valley Center at 4-1.
Since each lost to a different opponent, all four teams have an equal shot at the league title.
If Goddard wins its match over Andover Central today and Valley Center defeats McPherson, then the Lions get the league crown.
"We know that after Thursday night there is going to be two teams with a shot," Goddard coach Scott Harden said. "The champion will be determined Thursday night."
McPherson beat Goddard and lost to Andover Central.