Racheting Up Energy To Overcome 1-4 Start, Hun Boys’ Soccer Primed for Big Finish
CATCHING FIRE: Hun School boys’ soccer player Amar Anand goes after the ball in recent action. Last Saturday, junior star Anand scored the winning goal as Hun edged the Blair Academy 2-1. The Raiders, who topped Northern Burlington 2-1 last Monday to improve to 4-4-2, host the Hill School (Pa.) on October 11 before starting play in the Mercer County Tournament. (Photo by Frank Wojciechowski)
By Bill Alden
Struggling to a 1-4 record by late September, it was looking like the Hun School boys’ soccer team might be heading to a forgettable season.
But having gone 3-0-2 in its last five outings, Hun has righted the ship and appears to be on the way to a memorable campaign.
While the team’s run started with two frustrating ties, a 1-1 draw with Episcopal Academy on September 26 and a 3-3 stalemate with George School (Pa.) five days later that saw it squander early leads, Hun head coach Pat Quirk believes his players learned some lessons from the draws.
“I was talking to one of my parents and he said ‘you know what, you have to learn how to not lose before you win,’” said Quirk.
“That resonated with me a little bit with the George game where we had to come back to get that result to keep from losing that game. We were really disappointed in a tie but looking at it, we could have lost that game.”
The Raiders got a very good result last Thursday when they edged Princeton Day School 1-0 on a goal by senior defender Brian Spencer.
“To not give up the lead as we had done in the previous two games was awesome,” said Quirk
“We were playing well. They had a couple of opportunities at the end and Alex Donahue made some big saves. The defensive line was doing very well. We play well when we win 50/50 balls. In that game, Luke McManimon was winning everything against their back line. Tishe [Olaleye] and Amar [Anand] were winning head balls in the midfield. Brian [Spencer] and Jake Marcin, who was playing center back that game, were winning so much out of the air right up the middle.”
Two days later, Hun pulled out a big 2-1 win at Blair. “We were up 1-0 and we gave one back but this is a new team,” said Quirk.
“I feel like in the past we night have folded after going up on the road and giving it back. They have this sense of urgency and competitiveness that they don’t want lose any more or give it back.
Junior star Anand showed his competitiveness as he notched winning goal against the Buccaneers.
“Jake Marcin thew a ball to Tishe [Olaleye] and he flicked it to Amar,” said Quirk.
“He had a kid in his back, he backed him down a little bit and turned and shot and beat the goalie near post. It was a good shot.”
Through its undefeated streak, Hun has been getting good work from the back line and junior goalkeeper Donahue.
“Brian is one of the key guys back there and Jake Marcin has been playing a little center back, he got moved from the outside,” said Quirk, whose squad topped Northern Burlington 2-1 last Monday to improve to 4-4-2
“Lucas Mazzoni and John Balian both played outside back against PDS, they have been doing a really nice job. Jack Tarzy has been doing well, he had one of the goals against Blair. Alex has been great. I was a little worried in the beginning — he was a little tentative coming out, but he has been stealing stuff out the air nonstop. His communication has been great. He has been playing a lot with his feet, moving the ball around to our forwards. He has a really strong leg, that is helpful.”
In reflecting on the team’s recent success, Quirk attributes it to a strong commitment to improving day in, day out.
“The energy and the competitiveness that the kids have been coming with on a consistent basis has been unreal,” said Quirk.
“It starts in practice there and they roll it into the games now. It is something that we were struggling with in the beginning of the season. We were playing like a good 40 minutes or a good 60 minutes and now we are playing a complete 80 minutes.”
In addition to that energetic approach, the Raiders have been displaying resilience.
“We have had a hiccup here or there but they don’t let it get to them any more; they know it is on to the next play,” said Quirk.
“Previously, our heads would have gone down when Blair scored on us, we would have said ‘here we go.’ On Saturday, when we got the ball out of the net, we stood up tall and just kept going.”
Looking ahead, Quirk believes his squad can go on a nice run in the Mercer County Tournament which starts next week.
“It is the time of the season that you need to be going in the right direction and I think we are,” asserted Quirk, whose team hosts the Hill School (Pa.) on October 11 in a regular season contest
“I was talking to the seniors after the George game and I said good teams have this stuff figured out, they are making runs right now into the tournament. We have turned it around where I consider us as one of those teams that has it figured out and we are making a good run into the tournament.”