Sometimes a loss is necessary … and a haircut.
All good seasons have a turning point and for the OPRF soccer team that moment may have come in a 1-0 loss to St. Patrick on Sept. 7. The game was the fifth straight for the Huskies, after rough fall weather forced them to cram five games together. But, the loss proved to be the tipping point, according to OPRF coach Paul Wright.
“After the loss to St. Pat’s, we had to reevaluate our commitment to each other,” he said. “A good team dinner and 16 shaved heads later we are on the same page. We’ve been hounding them on the basics since summer camp, but they were just going through the motions and playing with no passion.
“After the loss, we called them out and told them there is a standard at OPRF now and we aren’t going to let that slip.”
The team must have taken Wright’s words to heart, because the Huskies have been on a tear ever since. Most recently, the squad took aim at some of the top teams from around the state at the Pepsi Showdown, facing Lincoln Way East, Hinsdale Central, Libertyville and Plainfield Central. The Huskies (6-4-1 overall) went 4-1 in the tournament, capping their impressive run with a 3-2 victory over Plainfield Central on Saturday. The score did not indicate the game, with OPRF dominating play and leading Plainfield 3-0 until the last six minutes. Senior striker and aptly named, Drew Golz, scored two goals for the Huskies, while Rory Landis added the third.
OPRF’s most impressive win, however, came against Libertyville. The Huskies cruised to a 4-1 victory against a team that was on the verge of being ranked in the top 10 in the state. All that press meant nothing to OPRF, however, with Mark Schroeder scoring two goals, while Jack Maher and Joe Kelty added a goal each.
“They (Libertyville) were in the Elite 8 at the Pepsi Showdown and they have been beating everybody this year,” Wright said. “But against them, everything was just clicking for us. I think it was during that game that the kids realized the last few days of practice really paid off.”
The Huskies also posted wins at the tournament over Hinsdale Central, 1-0, and Lincoln Way East, 2-1.
Golz is currently leading the Huskies in goals with 11. But, by no means does the senior dominate the spotlight for OPRF. Seniors Pat Koller and Mark Schroeder (five goals) have shouldered just as much of the offensive burden. Meanwhile, senior sweeper Mike Michon and senior left back Matt Gebert have anchored the defense.