JIM HUNSLEY: Team chemistry crucial to Valpo soccer team's success

2012-10-17T18:30:00Z JIM HUNSLEY: Team chemistry crucial to Valpo soccer team's successJim Hunsley Times Columnist nwitimes.com
October 17, 2012 6:30 pm  • 

A few minutes after winning the Class 2A Valparaiso Sectional title, the host Vikings boys soccer team posed for a photo.

Seconds before the cameras clicked, head coach Danny Jeftich queried, "How did we do this?" and the team responded, "Together."

I covered the game, and my first thoughts about the exchange were that they were just words -- another attempt to promote the overused term, "team chemistry."

Since then, I've reversed my thoughts on both their actions and the perceived cliche' phrase's application in this case.

The state No. 7-ranked Vikings (18-2) are three wins away from the program's second state title -- the first came in 2004.

According to Regional Radio Sports Network's latest online stat sheet, no Viking has double-digit goals. This group of 20 players is truly devoid of a superstar player, and I believe that fuels a truer sense of team unity.

"That definitely keeps the egos down," senior sweeper and captain Chase Holford. "It's definitely more like a family than what I've experienced before."

Like most families, tempers do flare at times. Holford admits that he's had to raise his voice to teammates, but he's also quick to take accountability for his mistakes.

There appears to be a sense of understanding between the players and coaching staff, alike. Arguments will take place, but the learning will continue.

"They buy into what we're doing," Jeftich said. "We can get emotional, and some times I have to kick them in the butt when they need it.

"These guys are very tight; they genuinely care for one another."

That point seemed crystal clear at last week's Merrillville Regional.

The Vikings gave up one-goal leads in the final two minutes of each game, but the team -- led by senior goalie Ethan Lehnen -- helped the team pull out a pair of shootout victories. Lehnen made five total shootout saves in the regional.

"It was very frustrating for me and the 10 other guys (on the field)," said Lehnen of the two tying goals. "I had to let it go and shut (the other team) down.

"I felt it would be huge for our team on those two nights."

Lehnen's drive isn't just fueled by the players on the field.

"We've got 20 guys who have been doing the work with the same common goal," he said. "We're there to support one another to get the job done."

The next job takes place Saturday. With a win in the semifinals, the Vikings might meet No. 2 and host Warsaw with a state berth on the line.

At this point, this team believes in each another -- and I believe in them.

 

This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at jim.hunsley@nwi.com.

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