Central's next goal - sectional winning streak

Tuesday, November 9, 2004

The Tigers will try to build on last year's breakthrough tonight against Lafayette. ~

By Jeremy Joffray ~ Southeast Missourian

Central's soccer team was 0-8 in sectional games entering last year's game against Francis Howell North at Houck Stadium.

A 1-0 win in double overtime exercised Central's sectional demons and eventually the team made it all the way to the Class 3 final four. This year the Tigers will look to continue their sectional success with a 7 p.m. showdown tonight against Lafayette at Houck Stadium.

"That got us over the hump, so we're not going to be afraid playing this year," Central coach Tom Doyle said.

If the Tigers are going to go far in the playoffs this season, they will have to do it with nearly an entirely different lineup. Tony Leuckel and Matt Hellrich are the only two returning starters. Despite all of the changes, Central has managed to put together another solid season with a 17-9 record heading into tonight's game.

While some may have doubted Central's ability to put together another quality record, Doyle said his expectations were high once again.

"Originally, going into the season, I said we could win 20 games," he said.

It will take another final four run to give the Tigers the 20-win goal set by Doyle. Central will need at least one more win just to match its lowest win total in the past four years. During its recent district title winning streak that began in 2001, Central has won 23, 18 and 26 games, respectively.

"We're setting the bar pretty high," Doyle said.

What the Tigers' roster may lack in playoff experience, they make up for in leadership. Central's eight seniors have helped ease the transition for the team's younger players and have been a steadying influence over the season.

"That senior leadership, people don't give it enough credit," Doyle said.

Much of that senior leadership comes from the defensive end. Hellrich, a defender, and Leuckel, the goalkeeper, both played big roles on last year's fourth-place squad. Those two have anchored a defense that has lived up to the smothering play displayed by last year's group.

Central has allowed 31 goals this season in 26 games. Last season the Tigers allowed 21 goals in 28 games. The defense's play this season has been important, as the offense has struggled at times. Central has only scored 57 goals this season through 26 games; the Tigers scored 103 in 26 games last season.

"Our defense has been playing really well," Doyle said.

The two teams will meet for the second time this season. Lafayette won the only meeting 2-1 at Central.

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