WINTER SPORTS PREVIEW: Havasu boys soccer looks for return trip to state playoffs
Coming off a playoff berth last year that saw the Lake Havasu boys soccer team fall 4-0 to Peoria Liberty in the play-in bracket of the 5A State Tournament, the Knights are not only looking to make it back to playoffs this season but go further.
To achieve that goal, the Knights are taking a different approach to their formations on the field this year. Lake Havasu coach Christina Gibbs said by doing so she is hoping it will give her team more opportunities to find the back of the net.
“Last year we played three in the back, four in the middle and three up front,” Gibbs said. “This year we are going back to four in the back and having three in the middle and up front. So we should have a lot of attacking. Most teams do not play that and they are used to only two forwards, so I’m thinking it will give us some more scoring opportunities.
“It’s been looking good and I’m excited to see the offense this year. I think it’s going to be really dynamic and explosive because we have some quick players. It should be fun to watch.”
So far, Havasu is off to a great start after the Knights overcame an early 1-0 deficit on Tuesday when they clobbered Parker 10-1 in their season opener.
Even before its big win though, Havasu has a lot to be excited about entering the new season. The Knights have a brand new Lee Barnes Stadium to play in. The majority of last years playoff team is back this season and the chemistry and communication have only gotten stronger as the Knights add another year to their long tenure of playing together.
“We’re feeling pretty confident this season especially with a new field to play on,” junior midfielder Parker Evans said. “I’m loving the team this year. Our communication and how we work together has only gotten better since we’ve all been playing together for such a long time.”
“Practice is rapid-fire,” senior defender Gabe Balderrama said about the new field. “It’s so much better than we had before. Our passing seems better because there because there are no weird hills for the ball to bounce off of. We’ve probably had the best passing we’ve ever had.”
Along with Evans and Balderrama, senior midfielder Johnathan Perez and senior goalkeeper Hayden Lintz are who Gibbs expects to be the leaders for the Knights on the field.
Of the 19 players Havasu has on the roster this year, 13 are returning from last years team that went 5-6-2 overall and 1-3-1 in Desert West regional play out of the 5A conference.
This year the Knights are moving down to 4A and are part of the newly formed West Valley region.
Glendale Deer Valley and Goodyear Desert Edge also moved out of last years Desert West region into the West Valley region. While Deer Valley beat Havasu 4-1 in last season, the Knights edged Desert Edge 6-5 for their only regional win last year.
As for their new opponents, Peoria and Glendale Cactus, things are a bit unknown. However, Gibbs said when she coached junior varsity Havasu played Peoria, tied them 1-1 and expects them to be about the same. However, Peoria is coming off of a disappointing season that saw them go 1-10 overall and 0-5 in regional play.
Cactus is also coming off a losing season that saw them go 4-8 overall and 2-3 in regional play.
The fact that Havasu feels so comfortable on their new home field is a plus this season because out of the 14 games the Knights will play, nine are at home.
Even if that wasn’t the case, the Knights are still confident in their ability to take of business even in a new conference against some teams they haven’t faced before and they know what they have to do to maintain that ability.
“We need to put in 100 percent at practice. Every time,” Evans said. “If we just relax then we will see the same outcome as last year. So we need to make sure we are pushing ourselves.”