The Phoenix boys soccer team’s early season schedule looked, on paper, like a very challenging run of contests for the young Oberlin squad and their first year head coach Dan Kulp.
With non-league matches against bigger schools (such as Elyria and Elyria Catholic), the Phoenix did absorb a few lumps early on, dropping six of the first seven.
However, as the team has continued to mature and develop under Kulp’s watchful eye, the team has come together, played some of its best soccer of the season, and now sports a three game winning streak — all in the past week.
The boys kicked off their streak in non-conference action on the road against Lake Ridge Academy with a convincing 4-1 victory.
The team followed up that showcase win with a return to the home pitch for a match against Patriot Athletic Conference foe Brooklyn. This match turned into a track meet as the Hurricanes were no match for the Phoenix, the home team emerging as a 7-0 victor.
In the victory over the Royals, Thayer Preston and senior Louis Gerard scored two goals apiece. Cruising to the lopsided win over the Hurricanes, Gerard, Preston (three), junior John Elrod (two), and Kaeveon Washington all touched the back of the net.
The most recent win, a narrow 4-3 decision on the road against Wellington, was the best game of the streak.
The Phoenix fell behind 2-0 in the first half but didn’t quit. Kulp tweaked his team’s formation a bit in an effort to generate a little more offensive pressure. The changes, along with some added energy on the field, worked as Oberlin went on a four-goal spree.
Freshman Syncere Shahid netted the first goal on a scramble in front of the net, followed by tallies from junior Kaveon Washington, first-year Julian Cross, and capped off by a nice finish from junior captain Thayer Preston.
With the Phoenix up 4-2, Kulp returned to a more conservative field alignment, and while the Dukes generated one more score they couldn’t catch the streaky Phoenix. In the net, goalie Jan Luca Huenting made seven saves to secure the win for Oberlin.
Kulp, a Wellington native, was particularly satisfied with the result. “This was probably our best game and our best win of the season,” he said. “Prior to the game, we talked about how Wellington was a very hard-working team. After we got behind, I was very pleased to see the boys react, realizing that they had to out-work the Dukes if they were to have success. They pushed it to another gear, generated numerous chances, and fortunately for us a good number of those turned into goals.”
Oberlin continued its conference play again Keystone on Wednesday after deadline and will step out of the conference with a home match against Open Door at 5 p.m. Saturday.
Kulp looks to build on the recent successes.
“I tell the team we have to be a team that is disciplined enough to keep our shape, control the ball, and make good decisions,” he said. “This recent run is evidence that it is finally paying off. We still have more work to do and will continue to improve, but I am very proud of these boys and how hard they’ve worked.”