The process began all the way back in July.
A Fort Lewis College mens soccer team, embarrassed a bit by losing a five-year stranglehold on the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference Tournament and missing out on the NCAAs, began optional workouts with the goal of eliminating the kinks in its possession-based game which caused it to suffer those perceived indignities.
Apparently, it paid off.
The No. 3 Skyhawks have improved by six wins over last years squad despite scoring at a similar clip. Defense played a large role in that up to this point, but so, too, has a better possession game, and the two have combined to the tune of seven goals allowed, an area theyll look to stay strong in today against Colorado School of Mines.
FLC head coach Oige Kennedy said that if the possession style isnt played well, it can lead to poor results such as the ones the Skyhawks saw first-hand just a turn of the calendar ago.
The detriment of that is if you dont do it well, you dont have success with it, he said. When you do possess it well, you can create chances. I think were creating about the same amount of chances but taking it through more and obviously doing a better job of keeping the ball out of the net.
Much of the improvement has to do with an increased comfort level in the system from the midfielders. Returning players, such as Cory Dean, Casey Dean and Joey Madigan, have anchored the possession in the middle of the FLC attack, and the additions of talented and knowledgeable players such as Alberto Capdepon Rodriguez and Aaron Kloer have served to boost it.
Perhaps the biggest key has been the cohesiveness of central midfielders Cory Dean and Rodriguez. The senior-freshman combos quick adjustment to playing alongside each other not only has allowed FLC to play a frustrating game of keep-away, but also allowed for Thomas Hoangs move from central midfield to forward, where hes flourished.
Me and him just, I dont know, seem to have some sort of good little click going. ... Him, his foot skills and ability to keep the ball for us and keep swinging it has definitely been a big help, Dean said.
Getting Dean who already had graduated but hadnt exhausted his eligibility back for another season was a huge coup for the program in terms of this seasons success, Kennedy said.
Cory was a huge returner for us because he kind of knew exactly what we were trying to get out of the guys in the preseason. ... He knows how the system is supposed to work, and I think hes a huge influence on how its working right now, Kennedy said.
Madigan, a senior outside midfielder, said the offseason work was the biggest difference-maker. It was a plan put in place immediately after the 2010 season came to a close, thanks to a bug planted in the seniors ears by the coaching staff.
All the guys showed up probably before any other team in the country; that includes DI, DII schools. ... We worked just as hard before preseason as we did in preseason, Madigan said. We talked about it immediately after the season. ... We were all on the same page from Day 1.
Now, Fort Lewis (17-1) sits on the edge of accomplishing a pair of goals this weekend.
An RMAC Tournament title on the Skyhawks home pitch not only would mark a return to the top after a brief absence but also would ensure Central Region hosting duties, meaning FLC wouldnt have to play anywhere but Dirks Field until the NCAA Division II Mens Soccer Championships final four.
After wrapping up the RMAC regular-season title two weeks ago, Madigan said the Skyhawks are champing at the bit to play elimination soccer.
I think that just knowing that its win or go home has given everybody a lot of motivation. ... We cant wait to play, Madigan said.