By PATRICK SLACK
Little Falls has always had fun when it steps on the soccer field, senior Katie Yorek said. But, she admits, winning adds a bit more to it.
This year’s Flyers have been adding a lot.
Because after winning only seven times the past two years combined and dropping its opener this fall, Little Falls has gone 7-1-2 in its previous 10 matches, clinching a winning regular season record and setting the team up for a likely home playoff match.
So what has been the key in the quick turnaround?
In a nutshell, it’s the defense.
“We’ve always been a defensive team,” Yorek said. “It’s what we’ve been working on the last few years and it definitely shows. We have also been great with keeping the possession of the ball throughout the game. I saw our team going a long way this season. We have worked hard the last few years to improve ourselves and we were ready to show it.”
“We have a strong defensive line and as a team we know what we have to do,” senior defender Kirsten Welinski said. “We have to work as a team to score and as a team to defend.”
And, as freshman Chelsea Moran, one of the team’s top offensive threats, points out, there’s a very simple way to keep opponents from scoring: don’t let them have the ball.
“Coach (Marc Fritz) always tells us we need to posses the ball,” she said. “Because if we possess the ball, then the other team doesn’t have the ball, and you need the ball to score.
“Our communication is another thing that makes us so good,” she said. “If we aren’t talking, the team starts to crumble. This year we really realized how much we need to communicate in order to be successful.”
That defensive mindset has helped the Flyers limit opposing teams to one goal or less in eight of their last nine matches, building the team’s confidence with every passing day.
“The team has more confidence than ever before because having this record and making history for our team and school brings a feeling that is hard to describe,” Welinski said. “I have confidence in this team to go farther than we have ever been.”
“Our confidence level has been great,” Yorek said. “We can go into any game knowing that we can be competitive with the other team if we play hard.”
Even with a 3-11-2 mark in 2012, there was a sense among this year’s team that things would be different, anchored by a veteran defensive unit.
“Our goals were the same as last year, to win a section game, and to do that we knew we had to win regular season games and that we have done,” Yorek said. “Our attitudes are a little different this year in a way that everyone on the team is there to work hard. It is very competitive this season. There is a lot of talent on our team, so everyone has to work hard to earn their spots.”
“I was excited for the season to start and I had a feeling that this season was going to be different from all the rest,” Welinski said, “This group of girls has been playing together for a few years now and it consists of a lot of talent. I knew that the harder you push yourself at the beginning and throughout the season the easier it gets. As a senior I never imagined having this many shut outs either.
“I was expecting to win more games than previous seasons and having this record just makes everything worth it,” she said. “The team chemistry I feel is very strong this year because we rely on each other on and off the field and we know how to challenge each other.”
“I knew how much potential we had,” Moran said. “I wasn’t quite sure if we would be able to execute the way we have been. It’s refreshing to see how much we have improved the last three years.”
During this week’s stretch of matches, the Flyers posted two more wins and a tie.
Yorek scores four goals as LF buries Hillcrest 9-0
Yorek buried four goals as Little Falls rattled visiting Hillcrest Lutheran Academy early and often in a 9-0 onslaught, Sept. 19.
Sophomore Jordan Schuett registered two goals for the Flyers, with senior Rachelle LeBlanc, Welinski and freshman Kia Friel also scoring.
Yorek, LeBlanc, freshman Mikel Vacek and Moran recorded assists and junior keeper Scottijo Meyer had a three-save shutout.
Flyers tie No. 16 Lakers Little Falls missed out on several breakaway and set play scoring opportunities, yet managed to salvage a 1-1 tie with visiting Detroit Lakes, Sept. 21.
Little Falls scored its only goal early, as junior Marissa Virnig fed sophomore Jordan Schuett with a return pass from the end line, then Schuett buried a line-drive shot 3:29 into the match from outside the box.
The Flyers finished with 23 total shots, including seven corner attempts.
The Lakers entered the contest ranked 16th in the state.
LF clinches winning record with shutout over Prep
After a scoreless first half, Friel knocked in an acrobatic bicycle kick in the 42nd minute to set Little Falls on its way to a 3-0 home win over St. John’s Prep, Tuesday, clinching a winning regular season for the Flyers.
Virnig and Moran also scored for the Flyers.