FOCUS – Lacombe Panther Johnathan Bell races hard to steal the ball away from Stettler player James Switenky during a recent game in Lacombe. The Panthers won 4-1.

FOCUS – Lacombe Panther Johnathan Bell races hard to steal the ball away from Stettler player James Switenky during a recent game in Lacombe. The Panthers won 4-1.

Lacombe Panthers stomp Stettler at College Heights

Panthers U-16 minor soccer team took to College Heights this week where they battled strong winds and took out the Stettler U-16

Lacombe Panthers U-16 minor soccer team took to College Heights this week where they battled strong winds and took out the Stettler U-16 with a final score of 4-1.

Conditions lent the players no favours as they fought for the ball. However, strong winds and light rain didn’t seem to damper the Lacombe minor soccer spirit as Nico VanDoesburg pushed through and secured the first goal of the game.

“We did start a little slow, and that’s kind of typical of our team, I’m not sure why. It seems to take us 15 minutes or so to get going but we have a strong bunch of players, and a good bunch of kids so they really get it going later on in the game,” said Lacombe Head Coach Dave Heslop.

The Panthers played the game with a strong defence in the first half, ensuring that the ball stayed mostly in their opponent’s end of the field. The boys demonstrated skill in maintaining control of the ball, and were working hard to keep it away from Stettler.

“We do focus on that defence because we believe a good defence will get you the win, and we do have some really strong defenders. We’re so far nine games into the season and undefeated. We’ve had six regular season games, and three games in the Sun Breaker tournament and have gone undefeated so far. The defensive strategy really pays off for us,” Heslop said.

“What we’ve got is kind of a core group of boys that have been together, probably since they were 12-years-old. They’ve accepted their roles – they know they aren’t going to score the goals or whatever, but they know their responsibilities and they do a great job with it.”

The boys from Stettler didn’t go down without effort. There was a great push from the players to try and regain control over the ball, and many excellent passes along the field. The wind played a role in several stop-and-start instances in the game, but overall the players pushed through to continue the battle.

Stettler evened the score 1-1 early in the second half but were soon overtaken by the Panthers. VanDoesburg scored two more goals in the game, and Keith Tembrinke contributed a goal as well.

So far, the Panthers have reigned undefeated in their season. Right now, Heslop said the boys will be working on tightening up their basic skills to carry them through to provincials. As well, the team puts a focus on connecting off the pitch as well to develop good relationships and comradery among the players.

“We feel that we maybe need to hone up on the skills that are already there. Our ultimate goal is to make it to provincials, so that’s our main goal for the year. Really, we just need to brush up and polish up on the fundamentals of the game. That’s always important,” Heslop said.

“We have really good team chemistry. For instance, we’re going out to Gull Lake for a team-building thing and we do events like that to make sure we have a good, solid team atmosphere. We win as a team, and we lose as a team.”

kmendonsa@lacombeexpress.com