For the past few seasons it's been Southwestern coach Mark Sleggs' goal to have his team host a playoff game at Charles A. Lawson field in October.
And for the past few seasons that hasn't happened.
So at the beginning of the 2012 campaign, Sleggs made a few changes to how his team plays the game, how it views the game and, perhaps most importantly, how it approaches the game.
Above, Ross Beresford of Southwestern keeps the ball from going over the end line during Thursday’s Division 1 boys soccer game against Dunkirk. Below, Southwestern’s Tanner Hoose heads the ball in front of a Dunkirk player. See additional photos a cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
The new philosophy is even printed on the back of their team t-shirts.
"We trying to do some different things," Sleggs explained. "We've got a saying on the back of their shirts that I got from my friend, Don Meyer from South Dakota. (It says) 'Hunting from a different tree stand.'
"So we're trying to work on the little things and hopefully - we're not there yet - but hopefully we'll be there in October."
Meyer, the second all-time winningest coach in NCAA men's basketball history, is a good person to take advice from. And judging by the results the Trojans have enjoyed thus far this season, that new perspective seems to be working.
On Thursday, Southwestern (3-1-1, 1-0) made easy work of a young and inexperienced Dunkirk squad (the Marauders graduated 11 seniors last year, nine of whom were starters), pouring in four goals in the first half alone on the way to a 5-0, Division 1 opening victory.
"When you go up against a team like Southwestern," Dunkirk coach Brian Crawford said, "who is outstanding in terms of spacing and ball movement and who is extremely well coached and very disciplined, and match that with our inexperience, you get that result."
Southwestern, with a crisp passing attack and speedy forwards, maintained possession throughout the game in the Marauders' (0-4, 0-1) zone, racking up 18 shots on goaltender Nick Kobel. Dunkirk, meanwhile, could muster just four shots, only one of which that required Southwestern goaltender Eric Priester to make a stop.
"It was a great way to start off our league," Sleggs said. "We've been trying to tell our guys how important league games are. I feel like a broken record, but (we need these) because we're trying to be able to play a home playoff game."
Southwestern netted its first goal (and the eventual winning goal) just seven minutes into play after Ross Beresford made a steal in the Dunkirk zone (from about 30 yards out) and carried the ball down the right side before firing a shot right at Kobel. Kobel made the save, but the ball ricocheted to the left, right to Hoose, who buried the rebound for the 1-0 advantage.
"That was a nice shot (by Beresford) and then Tanner was in a really good spot to put the rebound in," Sleggs said.
Beresford tallied his third goal of the season 10 minutes later when he gained control of a throw-in from teammate Alex Bower and sent a hard, low shot from 23 yards out and then five minutes later Beresford got the assist after booting a corner kick right at Hoose, who leapt above the crowd and sent a header past Kobel for the 3-0 lead.
Tristan Desnerck found the back of the net with 13 minutes left in the opening half and Hoose would round out the scoreing late in the second half for the hat trick. He now leads the Trojans with seven goals.
"They move the ball so well," Crawford said. "Tanner is an outstanding player, along with Ross and Tristan, so they've got some really good soccer players and they are very talented."
Despite the rather lopsided victory, however, Sleggs noted that neither he, nor his team, were completely satisfied with their performance.
"We've got a ways to go and I don't think the guys think we're there yet," he said. "I think they know we're still a work in progress. If we were an eight-cylinder car, I feel like we are running on only four and the other half of the engine is misfiring. We'd like to get all of them going."
If they can do that, more wins like this one will likely follow, and Sleggs might just get that home playoff game he's been aiming at.