Northwest’s boys soccer team knows what a state tournament feels like. The Grizzlies (12-2) have been in the Class 6A championship game for the past two years, winning in 2011.
But despite losing key players both years, coach Bobby Bribiesca knows his team hasn’t forgotten the feeling, and is striving to make an appearance a third straight year.
“They know what it is to win the tournament and they know what it feels like to be so close,” Bribiesca said. “There’s no substitute to get to that final. Once you get there you smell it, you want it, and that’s a lifetime experience that no kid will forget.”
Since Northwest’s 1-0 loss to Derby on Sept. 5, the Grizzlies have gone on a 10-game winning streak, including a 1-0 revenge win over Derby four games after the loss.
The team is flawless in the City League, with only Heights left to play on Oct. 22, and has defeated Kapaun and North 2-0, East 2-1 and Bishop Carroll 2-1 in overtime.
“We’ve came from behind to win games. I think we show a lot of character,” Bribiesca said. “I know every day in practice we have scenarios where we’re behind one goal and have 10 minutes to tie it, so what happens in the game isn’t new, we’ve practiced it before. You’ll never see a Northwest kid give up.”
Northwest is ranked sixth in the state overall, and fourth in 6A by the soccer coaches association.
The Grizzlies are anchored by an experienced defense, led by seniors Bailey Bryand, Makena Rhodes and junior goalkeeper Kieran Brandl. Andres Lleras leads the offense with 20 goals, with DeBray Hollimon adding nine goals on the season. Nick Cramer has seven assists, while outside wings Landon Arensberg and Mitchell Shurtz combine for 11 assists.
Independent rolling — A few changes made for a rocky start to coach David Cobb’s first season at Independent, but since losing three of the Panthers’ first four games, Independent has a seven-game winning streak.
“After we got through (the Maize South) tournament, we were building what we learned from those first four games and we really stepped up and got better,” Cobb said.
Independent defeated Hays 1-0 in the second game of the season, and fell to Maize South in a close 2-1 match after losing to McPherson 6-0.
The Panthers have also defeated Southeast 3-2 in overtime.
“The Maize South game was a 1-1 game with 10 seconds left and Maize South threw the ball in and got a shot with exactly one second,” Cobb said. “I think it really helps us playing better schools and gets us ready. The top level plays with great skill, great passing and I think that helps us play with those teams.”
Goalkeeper Jonny Richmond secures the defense — Independent’s strength — with five shutouts.
“I think our goalkeeper and our defense has played solid this whole season,” Cobb said. “We started off a little rocky, and we went to a different formation than what they played, but they started to get more comfortable.”