with gallery: As both teams build for the future, Pioneer beats rival Huron 1-0 in girls soccer
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First place in the Southeastern Conference Red Division was on the line Tuesday night when rivals Huron and Pioneer met in girls soccer at Riverbank Stadium.
For the two head coaches, however, the match was just another piece to the puzzle of trying to build a winning team.
“We want do well in the conference, we want to win in districts, we want trophies and those marks of success, but for us our mission is a bit beyond that," said Pioneer coach Sam Stern. "We just want to play the game the right way. We think everything else will fall in place if we pay the respect to the game that it deserves.”
With only three seniors on his team, Stern expected the Pioneers to have their share of ups-and-downs this season.
“We’ve talked all this year about it being a process, acknowledging that there will be steps back before there are steps forward," he said. "The girls have worked hard, but we know we haven’t worked hard enough.”
The Pioneers won the match 1-0 after Emily Turner found the back of the net in the 4th minute, but Stern felt his team could have played better defensively, despite the shutout. (Boxscore)
“To be honest, I thought our back-line was relatively poor given their past performances,” said Stern. “I didn’t think our shape was very good. What helps us take pressure off our back-line is we are pretty dynamic in our attack.”
The win keeps Pioneer (11-2-2, 8-0-1) in control of the SEC Red.
Much like Stern, first-year Huron (7-4-1, 7-2-0) coach Max Hepburn is also in the midst of guiding a young team back to prominence. The River Rats have no seniors on this year’s squad, something that gives Hepburn plenty to look forward to in the future.
“Not too long ago, this program was the state champion (2008). That’s the aim here with this group because we will be returning everybody next season,” Hepburn said. “It’s important that we take these lessons and we look at them as a building block. Maybe a league title isn’t in the works just yet, but we learn from each game as a group.”
With matchups against Saline and Skyline on the horizon, Hepburn looks at the next two weeks as a very important stretch for his club’s growth.
“It’s certainly not going to get any easier from here,” he said. “It could be a huge bonus to beat Saline and Skyline and then head into districts with that confidence. Or, it could be the opposite if we lose both those games. I think the lessons that we learn from those games are going to be huge factors going into this group’s senior year.”
Both coaches said their teams have grown throughout the course of the season and think those improvements will continue. Stern said the challenge for his club now is how to start working on the remaining weaknesses, while not sacrificing victories to do so.
“It’s this balance between playing to our strengths as a team, but laying with the right habits to be successful in the future as this program grows back again,” said Stern.