There is a different feel around the University City boys soccer team these days.
That has shown on the field and the scoreboard for the Lions (4-1), who have won four of their first five games.
STLhighschoolSPORTS.com rankings - 9/12/2018 Large SchoolsLast Week1. Chaminade (6-1)12. CBC (5-1-1)23. Francis Howell (7-0)44. Vianney (5-0-1…
“I've been with the program since I was a freshman and what we're doing is very special,” senior striker De'Leon Fitzgerald said.
“We haven't had this good of a start since I've been here. When I started here, it was (loss) after (loss) after (loss). The feeling now has changed. The feeling of knowing that there's a better team out here, the feeling of knowing that you're going to win games is so special. The chemistry is better and there is more communication on the field.”
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Fitzgerald (seven goals, one game-wining goal, one assist) leads the Lions in scoring as the team has scored opponents 22-13.
Sophomore midfielder Jalen Corn (five goals, one game-winner, two assists) is also providing scoring punch for coach Thomas Henson.
“I've been head coach for five years now and we've had more and more boys coming out each year and we've built the program,” Henson said. “There are skill players coming up as well.”
So far, freshman goalkeeper Cameron Smith has played everey minute and owns a 2.81 goals against average with the two shutouts.
To go along with the augmented talent level, Henson said the Suburban Conference realignment that took effect this school year also gives the Lions a fighting chance.
University City is in the Suburban Conference Blue Pool in boys soccer with Hazelwood Central, Hazelwood East, McCluer and McCluer North.
“I really think that this new alignment puts us in a very competitive situation,” Henson said. “I know Central has a long history of success, but I really believe that we can be competitive here. I think that winning the division is a goal for us. Also, we've moved into a new district and I think that the goal is certainly there for us to compete for that title.”
University City is in Class 2 District 4 with Soldan, John Burroughs and Gateway Science Academy.
“This is a once in a lifetime type of feeling,” Fitzgerald said.
MOORE USING CLUB EXPERIENCE TO RAISE LEVEL OF HIS GAME
Wood River junior forward Ethan Moore has played soccer all his life.
The recent difference, though, is Moore has transitioned to playing club soccer for Scott Gallagher.
The elevation of his game is now paying dividends for high school soccer for Oilers (7-4), Moore said.
Moore's 23 goals are currently the most by an individual in the area.
“I went out and learned as much as I possibly could,” Moore said. “That and hard work are important to be able to succeed on the field. There is pride in (leading the area), but I know I need to do more to help the team and, sometimes, that means putting more in the back of the net.”
Wood River coach Mike Lawson said Moore's teammates have worked hard to raise their respective games, as well.
“We knew offensively that we were very, very gifted,” Lawson said. “The biggest change for Ethan was that he was recruited by Gallagher to play on their elite team and he's never played select soccer until this last year. With him having this solid training, it's helped him. My junior and senior classes have all grown up together. Ethan has elevated his game, but the others have as well because they'll all go out and do kickarounds for fun. The effort is there from everyone to make this a great season.”
Moore is closing in on a pair of personal records after having already achieved one.
The six goals he scored in a win over Freeburg set the single-game mark for the program while his goals this season having knocking on the door of Wood River's single-season mark and the 52 career goals have him within range of the program's career scoring mark.
TROY LEARNS FROM TOUGH LOSS
Though the team is off to a 5-2 start, Troy coach Zachary Kos said that one of the losses — a 10-0 setback to Francis Howell on Sept. 5 losses — has been important for the Trojans.
Kos said the loss has shown the level necessary for the team to compete.
“We are just trying to get better every day in practice and put our best effort forth to compete,” Kos said. “Our conference is so tough top to bottom that we know we have to be at our best to compete in those games, which was evident in our loss to Francis Howell last week. That tough loss taught us that it takes each and every player working together to be successful.”
While the loss serves as a reminder, it's not as if it's all gloom and doom for the Trojans.
In fact, things are going rather well as Troy's five wins in seven games has equaled its best start over that stretch since 2007.
Kos said that the way the team is working together has been important to its start.
“The boys have worked extremely hard in preseason getting fit and building that team camaraderie almost like a family,” Kos said. “They get along really well and I think that chemistry has a lot to do with our success early in the year. We have some great personalities on the team and they have been my most fun team to be around in my three-year stint at Troy.”
Dylan Emge has a team-high five of Troy's 14 goals. Brendan Deters had two goals Tuesday in Troy's 3-2 overtime victory against Francis Howell Central.
Troy center back duo of Tyler Mullen and Carson Lebegue has solidified the effort to keep the opposition off the scoreboard. Kos said Muller is a converted defensive midfielder and Muller shifted to the center from an outside back spot.
“We put them in the middle together because of need and they have grown to be a very smart duo that keeps things clean in the back and are getting better everyday," Kos said. "That defense is anchored by T.J. Balducci in goal, who played unbelievable last night and was a big reason why we beat Howell Central in overtime. Luis Capilla has matured as a player a lot in the last year and has been instrumental in controlling and winning the midfield battle.”
• The McCluer Tournament concludes this week as Lutheran St. Charles, McCluer, Orchard Farm and University City play in semifinal matches Wednesday. The title game is set for 7:30 p.m. Friday at the Eagan Center in Florissant.
• The Hancock Tournament championship game is scheduled for 1 p.m. Saturday at Hancock. Participating teams include Lift for Life, Hancock, McKinley, Metro, St. Clair, Union, Valmeyer and Gateway Science Academy.
• There are currently five area goalkeepers who own a 0.00 goals against average. Vianney's Kyle Diffley has six solo shutouts to lead the group with the most minutes played without allowing a goal.
• The CBC Tournament wraps up this weekend with games at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Saturday. That night, De Smet plays Vianney before SLUH plays CBC.