The 2013-14 season has begun for Tempe Prep’s soccer team, marking the start of an era under the tutelage of new head coach Dean Sale.
The first four games of the year have proved difficult for the Knights, who managed just one victory through this opening stretch. In addition to facing very tough opponents, the team is in the midst of a growing process, due to youth—only one senior and four juniors—and lack of soccer experience.
TPA started the season with an away game at Phoenix Christian. The Knights came out of the gates timid and unorganized, surrendering a goal within minutes of kickoff. But before the end of the half, the team was rewarded a penalty kick and knotted the score at 1 when junior midfielder/forward Ryan Bush slotted home the first goal of the season.
Fatigue showed its harmful imprint in the second half though, as the Knights broke down and Phoenix Christian quickly piled on four goals, making the score 5-1 in their favor. Yet Tempe Prep did not fall without a fight, as Bush and sophomore Connor Woltz led the comeback trail with goals that made it a 5-3 loss.
Despite the opening-season loss, junior midfielder Isai Estevez remained hopeful, saying “we still battled hard throughout the game and gave it our all.” Though only in the early parts of the year, Estevez felt “beyond pleased with the amount of effort and dedication [the team] has put into learning the game and becoming better.”
Two blowout defeats followed the loss against Phoenix Christian, but considering the opponents, Coronado and Cortez high schools, the outcomes in these games become much more understandable. For a young and developing team to match up against the two-time reigning state champions Cortez, and the two-time runners-up Coronado, it was a tall order before even stepping onto the pitch.
But between those two difficult losses came Tempe Prep’s brightest moment of the season: demolishing Arizona Lutheran Academy 9-2 at home for their first win. The Knights quickly jumped out to an early advantage, scoring in the first five minutes of the game, eventually shutting out their opponents going into halftime 7-0. Estevez and Woltz had two goals apiece to lead the way in the victory.
With one win in four total games, Coach Sale remains content with his squad’s performance and optimistic about the season’s prospects. “Without a doubt our team is the youngest and most inexperienced team in our section, but what they lack in size, age, and experience [they make up for it] in desire and passion. I believe our boys can make the playoffs this year when they learn to play together and take care of each other as a team.”
Estevez added that although the team has sustained tough losses in the early going, “there is still much more to be fought. And if we continue to play as a team and with passion, the wins will surely follow.”
*Published on December 19th.