HAMMOND | Clark senior Daniel Curiel may be soft-spoken, but his leadership on the field this season for the Pioneers speaks a much louder volume than his words.
A senior who plays basically anywhere he's needed on the field, Curiel's versatility has undoubtedly been a huge part of Clark's 6-2-2 season so far.
Despite his versatility, Curiel takes enormous pride in his defensive capabilities first and foremost.
"I don't like getting scored on, so I just try my best to win (balls) in the air," Curiel said. "I think defense is the most important part of our team."
Last season, coach Jorge Torres put more emphasis on defense and less on being a run-and-gun team trying to catch up with everybody. This season, it's proven to be a formula for success. The Pioneers have five shutout wins this season, and a sixth shutout in a 0-0 tie with Andrean last Wednesday.
Curiel's skills have been a big part of that change in philosophy.
"We still want to run, but we have to realize we still want to close the house down," Torres said. "The boys were working on it last season, and this season they seem to have a little bit better hold of it now."
Curiel, who has six goals this season, was part of a turning point in the season on Sept. 1. The Pioneers fought neck and neck with Mishawaka Marian all game long, before scoring a late goal and taking a 1-0 victory, which proved to be an enormous confidence booster to a team that had lacked in that department previously.
"Before that game, our team really didn't think that we had a good team," Curiel said. "After that game, we realized we had it in us to go farther than just in the area and win. Like coach said, it is about confidence."
Curiel, who hopes to play collegiate soccer, is aiming big for his final year. The Pioneers have been in the sectional championship game for the last five seasons, but have never won one. Torres knows his team has the ability to climb that wall, too.
"We know how to get there; we just need to knock the door down," he said. "These boys can definitely do it if they really want to. It's not like we don't know the road already."