Pack looking to hit a ‘home’ runPublished 8:35pm Tuesday, October 29, 2013
The Washington soccer team’s playoff run might be a long one, but don’t expect it to crank up the team bus anytime soon.
With its 3-0 victory over Beddingfield in its regular season finale, the Pam Pack (16-1-2, Eastern Plains) wrapped up its first conference championship in coach Jimmy Kozuch’s eight-year tenure with the team and locked down the No. 2 overall seed in the 32-team playoff bracket.
With the NCHSAA shifting away from its pod system to a March Madness style playoffs, Washington is in line to be the home team against every opponent it faces from here on out with the exception of No. 1 First Flight (18-0), who the Pack wouldn’t see until the 2-A Eastern finals.
Kozuch credited the hometown fans for providing a boost during the win over the Bruins and is hoping they can give a repeat performance today when the Pack begins its postseason run at 6 p.m. against No. 32 Burlington Cummings (4-6).
“In our conference championship game we had a ton of fans out there and that really made a huge difference,” Kozuch said. “If we can get them all out there again I really think it will impact the team and keep everybody motivated. It keeps the level of play at a much higher level.”
While the hometown support is key, having the home field advantage also means Washington will not have to take a lengthy bus ride before its games.
“It’s really nice that we don’t have to travel. I know Burlington is going to have about a three-hour bus ride,” Kozuch said. “Sometimes during these rides you can lose your legs.”
With its 16 wins, Washington is one victory away from tying the school’s all-time single-season record. However, Kozuch said the team’s focus is squarely on its upcoming opponent.
“That’s really something I haven’t even talked to the guys about,” Kozuch said. “Right now we’ve just been concentrating on each upcoming game.”
Kozuch said what has made this year’s team so special is its balance and dedication to defense.
“We’re just overall pretty solid. We don’t have any superstars, we just have a bunch of guys that are playing like a team and that’s all I can ask for,” Kozuch said. “The strength of the team is that we play a strong overall team defense. The most goals we’ve given up in a game is two, so if we can keep that up I’m pretty confident that we can score two or three goals in each game.”
Washington has pitched 10 shutouts so far this season thanks to a tremendous effort by its defenders and sophomore keeper William Tate.
“Sergio Bolivar, William Page, Daniel Crozier and Holt McKeithan are my starting four defenders and have done a great job,” Kozuch said. “All together those guys have been great and communicating well.”
Kozuch said that the team’s unselfish brand of soccer is what got it this far and he is looking for that to continue today.
“The key for us is to just play all-around team soccer and play a strong defensive game,” Kozuch said. “When we’re good it because everyone is playing strong defense, not just our defenders. If we’re able to team defend then we can create our own opportunities on offense and hopefully we can capitalize.”