Elizabeth Forward soccer strives to get better amid winless season
It's tough enough that his team remained winless, but Dave King wasn't about to accept mediocrity.
“We're very young, and we've gotten the effort from them in every game, except one,” said the longtime Elizabeth Forward boys soccer coach. “We corrected that the next night in practice.”
It was following a 2-1 loss to Yough on Sept. 17 that Elizabeth Forward players found themselves working more than usual.
King thought the team squandered a great chance for its first victory just days after battling Thomas Jefferson to a 2-2 tie.
“I always tell the guys that when I show up for practice, I give you an effort,” King said. “If you're not going to give an effort in the game, you'll give it in practice. You'll run some hills. One way or another, we're going to give an effort.”
Since then, Elizabeth Forward has shown signs of progressing in a season of trial and error. But the overall results have reached a new low for King. Only two times in his 13 previous seasons as coach have the Warriors not qualified for the WPIAL playoffs.
At 0-12-1 and a rematch with Thomas Jefferson scheduled for Tuesday, the Warriors are headed to the sidelines for a second year in a row after narrowly missing the postseason in 2012, limping to a 7-10-1 mark.
As for being hobbled, Elizabeth Forward this season not only is young, but banged up. It's a tough mix for King and his team.
“We've had more than our share of injuries,” he said. “We've only had the same starting lineup in a game one other time this season.”
Junior Derek Bakewell, who King calls “probably our best player,” has been hampered by a high ankle sprain. There's also been concussions and hip injuries and a host of other bumps and bruises.
When King calls his team is young, he's not kidding. Elizabeth Forward has just two seniors on its roster, but only one — co-captain Adam Stitt — is a regular.
“We've only scored four goals, and he doesn't have any of them,” King said. “We've been competitive against most teams, but we've been starting two or three freshmen, and then most times, two or three more freshmen are coming off the bench. We have a nice junior class and some good sophomores, so we're optimistic that we can get it going again.”
Junior Tyler Buckley leads Elizabeth Forward with two goals and one assist.
King can't say what his career coaching record is, but he estimates that he's “up around 150 wins.” He's certainly familiar with taking teams to the playoffs, though being guaranteed a second consecutive miss is hard to take.
“It's frustrating. It stinks showing up at the stadium without a win, but the boys have a good attitude,” he said. “They come to practice, and we've noticed a difference in their play between the beginning of the season and now. Really, that's all you can ask for.”
Dave Mackall is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.