When JV boys' soccer coach John Haigh walked into his team's eighth-period study hall on Oct. 19, he was clearly elated by JV's 2-0 victory over Walter Johnson the night before. "You have a winning formula," he told his players, expressing his pride in the team's then 9-0 season record. "You guys are on the verge of something big."
True to Haigh's prediction, JV boys' soccer ended its season as one of the most successful teams in recent Blair history. The team has suffered only seven losses in the fives years since Haigh became its coach, racking up an impressive 22-game winning streak over the last two seasons before finally falling 0-1 to Churchill on Oct. 27. Though the loss to Churchill marked the end of the team's two-season winning streak, JV boys' soccer still completed the season with a more-than-respectable 10-1 record, scoring 42 goals of its own and shutting out ten opponents along the way.
From strangers to teammates
The JV boys' soccer team's continued success is all the more impressive because of its high player-turnover rate. After losing several juniors and sophomore standout Alec McLean to the varsity squad, the team began the season with only eight veterans on its roster of 24 players. As Haigh notes, however, the team was fortunate enough to recruit a group of talented new players to round out its roster, many who already had experience playing on club teams.
Even players who had no club team 00experience were able to hone their skills prior to the official start of soccer season by attending the pickup games organized by the varsity team over the summer. "There were summer pickup games three times a week," Haigh said, "and we'd have as few as 12 or 14—or as many as 35, close to 40—show up."
As a result of these games, the Blazers were already comfortable playing as a team by the time the official start of soccer season rolled around. "We play so well because 00we started practicing together over the summer," sophomore co-captain Jack Graul explains.
Quick feet and chemistry
According to most players, this ability to cooperate well with each other is the most crucial element to the JV boys' soccer's success story. Though sophomore midfielder00 Nick Mozer admits that there are a few cliques within the team when players are off of the field, he and Graul both agree that once the starting whistle sounds, the players' differences disappear. "We have good team chemistry," Graul explains. "We get along, and that translates to a good game on the field."
"If not for team chemistry, we wouldn't be scoring so much," adds sophomore co-captain Alex Asare-Wassow. Though goals are scored by individuals—such as forwards sophomore Yendoukoa Lamboni and freshman Prince Momo, who finished the season with 13 and nine goals, respectively—Asare-Wassow explains that it takes the effort of an entire team to wrestle the ball from opponents, dribble it down the field and pass it cleanly to the player who finally scores.
Asare-Wassow also credits the Blazers' success this season to its strong defense, noting that the team could not have shut out so many opponents without the work of sophomore goalies Sam Prager and Matthew McClain. Asare-Wassow and several of his teammates also praise freshman sweeper Noel Aguirre for his intense performance thus far. "Noel is our strongest defender," Momo says. "He's fast, he's aggressive in defense and he motivates the team."
Study halls and "suicides"
In addition to training his players on the field, Haigh has also implemented a variety of rules to help build discipline, including a mandatory eighth-period study hall as well as an attendance policy in which missed practices mean decreased game time and punishments such as pushups and "suicides," exhausting sprinting drills that build player endurance. "All of [the players] show up to practice and study hall," he says. "[They're] committed, and it translates into wins."
Though many of the players groan at the idea of spending an additional 45 minutes in school each day and wince at the thought of huffing and puffing through extra conditioning drills, most agree that the rules have been beneficial to building team unity. "We're good because we've got discipline," sophomore midfielder Jesse Ruf explains. "Mr. Haigh doesn't let us mess around."
Haigh agrees with Ruf, but he also adds that most of his players come onto the team already possessing a good sense of discipline in addition to strong playing skills. "The talent is there," Haigh explains. "I just need to steer it."
Kristina Yang. Kristina Yang is 1/10 of the Blair girls' volleyball team. When not on the court, she most likely to be running away from Magnet math homework, trying to pay off her three speeding/redlight tickets, or feeding her bubble tea addiction. She would also like to ... More »