Paul Wright’s hair is growing back. The OPRF soccer coach willingly joined in on his team’s head-shaving campaign after a disappointing 1-0 loss to St. Patrick back in early September. Every varsity player, but one-Pat Koller refused to part with his beloved dreadlocks-sacrificed a head-of-hair to try and spark a turn-around for a team unsure of itself early in the season.
The Hairless Huskies (9-4-2, 4-0), who took on West Suburban (Silver) Conference foe Lyons Township for the conference title last night (after deadline), put together a string of seven straight wins before tying Morton 0-0 last week. On Friday, the team improved its chances for a conference title by edging York 1-0. Mark Schroeder scored the game-winner for the Huskies.
“We were just not on the same page to start the season,” said Wright of his team’s decision to go hairless. “There was really a lack of unity and something needed to be done. We were at a team dinner before a big game and someone got a hold of some hair clippers. The next thing I knew everyone was in the backyard losing their hair.”
Wright said the team also grew closer after a recent trip to Camp Manitoqua and Retreat Center in Frankfort, some 40 miles away.
“We’re a very diverse team age-wise, so it was important to me that these guys get to know one another and learn to depend on one another,” said Wright. “Everyone has to be held accountable for their actions, and they have to be able to rely on the next guy.”
Up in Frankfort, the Huskies stayed in log cabins, played four-square kickball, hiked through the woods, and learned a little something about team building.
“There were these platforms 80-feet in the air and each man is connected to a cable and he has to try and help his team win by making it across an obstacle course,” explained Wright. “The whole experience was a good bonding tool for the team, not to mention fodder for some intense weeks ahead.”
That’s one of Wright’s strategies for the remainder of the season: keeping his players loose and relaxed. It’s worked in the past. For the last two years, the Huskies have won over 30 games and lost 10, eight by way of just one goal. This season the team finished 4-1 at the prestigious Pepsi Showdown. Time off for the camping trip hasn’t seemed to slow OPRF down.
On Sept. 25, the Huskies edged Downers Grove North 1-0. Drew Golz scored the game-winner, while goalkeeper Mark Bernthal snagged his third shutout of the season. The following day the team took Morton to a 0-0 tie. OPRF may see the Mustangs again in the Lyons Township Class AA Sectional championship later this month, but that’s if the Huskies are able to get past No. 1-seeded Downers Grove South. OPRF, which hosts its own regional beginning Oct. 16 versus Riverside Brookfield, is the No. 4 seed in the sectional. Morton is the No. 2 seed and Lyons the No. 3 seed.
With Golz (10 goals) doing most of the scoring for the Huskies, the squad has relied heavily on their defense, most notably Mike Michon, Joe Kelty, Matt Gebert, Sean Delbecarro and Bernthal, who has tallied five shutouts at goalkeeper this season.
This week the Huskies kickoff a three-game road stand with games at Glenbard West (Thursday), Mt. Carmel (Saturday), and Riverside Brookfield (Monday).