By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
September 9, 2006
A typical sports cliché is to think of a smaller, seemingly overmatched team as David taking on Goliath. However, a different biblical story is perhaps more befitting of recent Horizon soccer teams: that of Gideon and the Midianites.
Gideon was renowned for leading small forces of Isrealites against whole armies and defeating them through surprise and confusion, and while Hawks have not beaten all of their larger opponents, they have often succeeded confusing them and driving them crazy.
“We really shock some of those big schools,” Coach Mark Lago said.
He listed as examples a game against Corbett last year in which his squad came from behind to beat Corbett 2-1, and a game in the playoffs several years ago when they gave The Dalles fits before allowing the game winning goal in the final minutes.
“When we play these big schools we will take it to them with physical, strong soccer,” he said.
After a state playoff appearance last year, the Hawks are in a transition in more ways than one this season.
The biggest difference is that opponents will not just have one Horizon team to deal with this year, they’ll have two. Lago had enough girls turn out to form a separate girls’ team. So far the team has ten players and is hoping to add a few more before the season starts. Lago said that the team will make arrangements to play opponents nine vs. nine or ten vs. ten if needed, but that he would like to have a full team in place on the girls’ side.
For the boys, Lago’s biggest task is reassembling a defensive unit that lost three starters from last year. Three freshmen will be playing large roles for the Hawks on defense this season.
“Our defense has to step up and learn to play together,” senior goalkeeper Cameron Root said.
Root was voted all-conference goalkeeper last season and will be relied upon to provide an anchor in goal while the defense comes together during the early part of the season. The team hopes to make up for the unsettled defensive situation with a strong offensive output.
“Offensively we shouldn’t struggle,” senior captain Stephen Stenberg said.
Stenberg received numerous MVP votes last season, and should provide the team with strong senior leadership from his midfield position this season. With no pre-season, the team will need to get off to a fast start to achieve its goal of returning to the state playoffs, and depending on results of this weekend’s jamboree, that could include wholesale changes in the starting lineup.
“Depending on what happens (in the jamboree) I might change the whole lineup,” Lago said.
Whoever that starting lineup consists of, they will have to be prepared to play much of the game. Horizon typically does not have enough players to make substitutions while larger opponents can put fresh legs on the field at the end of a match.
However, all that time on the field allows players who may not have much experience in the sport or on the team to quickly bond with their teammates.
“These kids come together and gel like they have been playing together for years,” Lago said.
For the girls, after years of largely being relegated to the sidelines, they will be expected to step out on their own this year. Leading them on the pitch will be senior captain Jacque Mellow, who Lago describes as a “little bulldog” because of her commitment to the program.
“We’ve been playing in the boys’ footsteps and now we have to step into the light,” Mellow said. “Instead of bonding, we’ll have to lead.”
Neither the girls’ coaches nor the players are quite sure what to expect this season. “We were never forced to play before,” Christina Brown said. “We had a year to watch and now we are being thrown out there.”
Having played with the boys in a co-ed format for the last several years could give the Horizon girls an advantage come game time. Lago has encouraged his male players to treat their female counterparts no differently on the field. He said that Brown often blew past defenders on boys’ teams last year because they did not anticipate her speed and that fellow sophomore Liz Taylor was gifted enough to take on any competition, whether it be male or female.
Regardless of who is in the starting lineup, or whether they have enough players to have substitutions, the Hawks are aware that they face a challenge in getting back to state.
“We are all going to have to give 120 percent,” senior Zack Schreiner said.
In the next breath Root jumped in and followed Schreiner’s comment with, “Make that 130 percent.”