Archive for Thursday, September 8, 2005

The Fly Route

September 8, 2005

Erryn Kindle lined up and cast a quick, but poignant glace back at Eudora soccer coach Erik Peltzman.

Four De Soto players meanwhile carefully lined up in front of him. He ran and swung at the ball, sending a high-arching kick over the defenders and right through De Soto goalie Jake Sosna's outstretched hands.

The Eudora sideline went crazy.

Players jumped off the bench and hugged, screamed and shouted and ran on to the field to congratulate Kindle.

And 20 yards away I watched in wonder.

Prior to the game, I'd been told what happens when Eudora's soccer team butts heads with perennial-powerhouse De Soto.

The Wildcats had wiped the table with the Cardinals in each of the Eudora soccer team's three full years of existence, winning via a 10-goal sympathy rule every time.

And finally I saw what I had been told about. De Soto already had the game in the bank, sitting on an insurmountable 6-0 lead. And after Eudora scored its goal, changing virtually nothing but the final stats, the Cardinals were partying like they had won the World Cup.

But to assume that Eudora scoring a goal against De Soto was not a feat worthy of celebration is to not understand where the Eudora soccer program was, and where it is.

"This is the first time that I've been in this program that we've not lost by run rule to De Soto," Peltzman said. "They're starting to believe in the program. All those things are starting to gel together. Obviously we're still young. Obviously we're still small. Even though we don't size up, I know for all of them, the second half was a huge victory."

Starting a soccer program comes with its challenges. The football team and equally successful volleyball and cross country programs offer plenty of options for Eudora's fall athletes.

Add in that soccer will never find as much support in America as either football or volleyball, and the task becomes more difficult.

The worst-case scenario can be seen in the team's first three seasons.

Eudora won just one game, a 2-1 victory over KC Wyandotte in 2003.De Soto, which has won its regional and played in the state championship game in that time, has won the match up 10-0 each year.

Until 2005.

De Soto was the better team Thursday. Their dominance showed in the first half, racing to a 5-0 lead.

But the second half was different. Seaman scored easily early, but Eudora finally started playing with the toughness De Soto always brings. Seaman and the rest of the Wildcats grew frustrated.

The period ended in a 1-1 tie.

"I told the boys 'That's probably the best I've ever seen Eudora play,'" De Soto coach Darren Erpelding said. "That's by far the best half, by far, that they've played."

Eudora senior Jacob Gillihan had two good chances to score. But after ditching his defender, he sent both balls over the goalie, over the entire goal in fact.

It'll take more than a half for this team to be successful. They'll have to play with heart and passion for an entire game if they want to start showing up on an opponent's radar.

One goal against another team's six shouldn't be something to celebrate, but for Eudora it's a sign of progress.

Eudora thought it could win Thursday, but I don't buy it.

Not yet.

Someday soon, though. As difficult as it is to start a program from scratch, Peltzman has done it.

As I left Peltzman and headed over to talk to the De Soto coaches, he turned back and said "Make us look good."

I don't have to coach. Despite being beat by a better team, you left that team stunned and impressed while your own players felt like champions.

You've made the team look good, and maybe not this year, but some day soon, Eudora will play with the big boys.

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