Oakwood soccer making great strides
FITHIAN – In its first three years of existence, Oakwood's boys' soccer team won seven matches. This season, the Comets already have a 9-5-2 mark, including victories against some of the area's strongest teams.
"The first thing I noticed when I got (to Oakwood) was that nobody had ever really pushed (this team) to be good," first-year coach Eric Fenton said. "I think in the past all they've done is just kick and run, and now they're looking to make the quick pass, making little cuts off that – actually playing soccer."
Fenton joined the Comets for the senior season of the first Oakwood soccer class.
The team's seven seniors have been together since the beginning, and everyone connected with the program is happy to see the years of dedication pay off.
"(Adam Barr) is the best goalie around," Fenton said. "Every game we've played so far, he's been the best goalie on the field. Justin Harper is leading us in goals. (Matt Reynolds) is really fast, when he's healthy. Dustin Leverenz plays defense, and then there's Mitch Cronk (the all-time assists leader).
"These seniors (along with teammates Evan Davis and Kyle Carnahan), and their parents, especially, really had to fight to get soccer started (at Oakwood)," Fenton said. "They fought to get (the team), and now they are finally having success as seniors."
The Comets have clinched their first winning season.
"When my class began playing soccer at Oakwood (as freshmen), we didn't have any veteran players," Leverenz said. "It was just us.
"I think it gave us an advantage over a lot of other teams, though, too. We've played varsity all four years now."
That translates into better results on the field.
"We've just improved a lot from the past few years," Harper said. "We seem to have a better feel for the game this year."
Reynolds, who has battled an ankle injury much of the season, agrees. "(Fenton) has brought in a new style of play that gets us passing more. We play a lot smarter this year, and it gives us a chance to win against the harder teams in the area."
The Comets, who are set to host their first soccer playoff game in school history Oct. 13 against Olney East Richland, are excited by the prospects of the postseason tournament.
Despite being seeded eighth in the sectional, Oakwood has beaten the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, and it is the only team to mar No. 1 seed Judah Christian's otherwise-perfect season.
Though the Comets were missing their starting goalkeeper as well as key players on offense and defense, they were able to hold Judah (13-0-1) to a 0-0 tie.
If Oakwood advances to the second round of postseason play, it faces a rematch against Judah, and this time, everyone plans on being healthy.
"I think that if we have all of our varsity, we have a very good chance of winning," Leverenz said.
"We definitely want to win sectionals," added Reynolds, "and we think we can do it, too."
But before the Comets get too far ahead of themselves, they still have some regular season matches to play. This afternoon, Oakwood takes on rival Salt Fork/Westville at home, beginning at 4:30.
"(Salt Fork) is definitely our biggest rival, by far," Harper said. "Our team knows it. They're just a very well-prepared team when they play us, and we're really well prepared, so all our games have always been close. The intensity is very high compared to any of the other regular season games – except maybe Judah."