Men’s soccer shoots for success

Emmett Kowler

Elise Sommers, Staff writer

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The South men’s varsity soccer season came to a heartbreaking end on Tuesday, October 18, with Southwest narrowly defeating the 2011 city champions in a suspense-filled 2-1 victory in the section 6AA championship. This game brought to a close a memorable and successful season for the team.

“We’re very talented,” stated men’s varsity soccer coach, Tamba Johnson, brimming with confidence. “Offensively, we know how to score. We can beat you.” The team’s record proves that this assurance is well deserved. South’s men’s varsity soccer team maintained a steady ranking in the top ten of their class, AA, over the course of the entire season.

Last season, junior Elliot Cassutt was the leading goal scorer in the state, setting a record for goals scored in a season. This year, the number of goals scored is lower, but he’s not complaining. “I think this year the wealth is spread around the team more, and everybody’s doing their part, so it’s all good,” Cassutt said.

“His coaching style is that he’s firm, but fair,” Athletic Director Mark Sanders stated, describing Johnson’s coaching style, “he is a technique guy, but he’s a player’s coach, the players certainly seem to like him a lot.” Johnson acknowledged this relationship, as well. “I try to be motivational to the players. I’m demanding. The one thing you need is effort, the rest we can figure out from there.”

“Tamba [Johnson] likes to focus on playing a very offensive, fast-paced style of play,” Cassutt said. “We’re supposed to be focusing on scoring goals, and dominating the play in their end of the field.” To reach this high level of playing, Johnson employs several practice strategies. “We play a lot of line of attack, changing point of attack.” he stated.

Quick thinking is another skill valued in players. One exercise described was where players split into groups must pass the ball five times in a matter of seconds. According to junior Negawo Ansha, this helps them “to play under pressure,” which can definitely prove helpful in a game situation.

What Johnson is doing seems to be working. In response to a question about if Johnson’s coaching style had changed, Sanders replied simply, “No, not really. We’ve been good for a lot of years. We’ve been extremely blessed with good soccer players.”

Sanders also attributes the team’s exceptional success this year to another factor. “They seem to have good chemistry together, and that’s the secret,” he said. “The secret is if you have good chemistry. Because if you don’t play well with the guys that are on your team, you’re not going to be successful.”

“I think our biggest weakness is our mental toughness,” Cassutt stated, “sometimes we’ll have these mental breakdowns, and we’ll kind of let in these easy goals, and make mistakes. We play well, and then we don’t play well, so we’re kind of inconsistent at the same time.”

There seems to be a general consensus among team members that the most exciting moment of this season was their first game against the age-old rivals, Southwest, who placed second in last year’s state championship. In the last fifteen seconds of the game, Cassutt sneaked in a goal, to win the game 3 to 2. “It was fun for us, fun for me especially,” Cassutt remembers, “we got a really good reaction from the crowds, and from our fans, which made it pretty special.”

Moments such as this may be harder to come by next year. Fifteen of the twenty varsity players are graduating seniors this year, which will leave a big gap in the team. “We have a lot of good talent coming back,” Johnson said, “it’s going to be tough replacing [the seniors], but it’ll be a good opportunity.”

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