GRAND RAPIDS — With the playoffs right around the corner, the Grand Rapids High School boys soccer team is making a push to be playing its best soccer of the season as the playoffs open.
Thunderhawks head coach Nick Koerbitz said his squad has played well against the top teams in the section and in fact it has wins over a couple of the teams. He said the team has certainly improved as the season has transpired.
“A lot of it has been certain things we have noticed that we have fixed throughout the year whether it is guys in different spots or different formations and stuff like that,” Koerbitz explained. “The biggest reason would be we are just a really young team with a lot of freshmen and sophomores who have seen a lot of playing time and who have learned a lot throughout the year.
“There are certain things we can draw up on the board and suggest here and there but the experience on the field and the physicality that they have to deal with is something that you can’t really teach. So a lot of it has been our younger guys growing and maturing and stepping into those important roles.”
The Thunderhawks played well on Tuesday in shutting out the Hibbing Bluejackets by a 2-0 score. The first goal was scored by Cam Fox on a penalty kick in the 58th minute and it proved to be the eventual game-winning goal.
The second goal was scored by Griffin Otto on a corner kick in the 65th minute to pad the lead. Fox received an assist on the score.
Hayden DeMars again was solid in the nets for Grand Rapids as he recorded five saves in coming up with the,shutout.
However, Grand Rapids traveled to Duluth Denfeld on Thursday and lost 3-0 to a good Hunters team. Still, Koerbitz felt his team played well in the loss.
“We lost to Duluth Denfeld 3-0 but we had the ball for most of the game,” Koerbitz said. “I felt like we didn’t capitalize on our chances while they definitely finished on the other end. The score definitely looked worse than the flow of the game would suggest. They are a good team but we know they are a team that we can hang with.”
Koerbitz said Denfeld is in the Thunderhawks’ section and that the Hunters will be one of the higher seeds in the section tournament. The final regular season game for Grand Rapids is at home Saturday at 2 p.m. against Cambridge-Isanti, and the playoffs will begin on Thursday. He said it is unknown who the Thunderhawks will play until the brackets are released on Tuesday morning.
“I truly believe that we will be playing our best soccer in about a week when it matters the most,” Koerbitz said. “Denfeld was a really good measuring stick about where we need to be. We have hung with teams all season and we have proved that we can be there. It is just that they need to truly believe they can take that extra step and make a run at the section title.
“Physically, tactically, there are a lot of things that we would like to do to be successful but equally as important if not more important will be their mind sets and their attitudes coming into it.”
Grand Rapids is now 7-6-2 for the season.