By Greg Price: CNJ sports writer
During the Clovis boys soccer preseason, coach Shaun Gill said there was squabbling among team members. He said a lot of frustration had built up between the offense and the defense and it only happened because the entire team wanted to play better.
The Cats moved past their infighting and roared out to a 12-2-1 mark entering District 4-5A play. Clovis hosts Hobbs (13-4) in today’s district opener.
Looking for their first state tournament appearance in Gill’s five seasons at Clovis, the Wildcats feature a balanced attack with six players in the top 20 in scoring in the state.
“They’re assisting as much as they are scoring goals,” Gill said. “They’re playing unselfishly and distributing the ball.”
The Cats’ defense has also been stellar throughout the season, allowing less than goal a game.
Four of the 13 goals Clovis has allowed were to Hobbs, which beat the Wildcats in a tournament early in the season in Clovis.
The Eagles will be a hungry team as they roll into Clovis today, led by sophomore Jacob Ray, the No. 3 scorer in the state, Gill said.
“They are very quick to the ball and they distribute very well to Ray,” Gill said of Hobbs. “They are very dangerous in the air and they can hurt you. But since they beat us early, it’s going to be revenge.”
Gill said he believes his team has a chance to win the district and move on to the state tournament. That’s been a goal for the team all year long.
“I told the guys we need to step it up a notch,” Gill said. “I don’t think we’ve peaked yet.”
Meanwhile, the Lady Wildcats (4-7-2) have their own demons to conquer. Initially, they were not taken seriously after putting together several consecutive losing campaigns.
First-year coach Shane Leatherwood has changed the atmosphere around the team.
The Lady Cats have already exceeded last year’s win total (three), and now look to make some noise in the district as they open district play at Hobbs today.
“We’ve come to understand the game better,” Leatherwood said. “But we’ve had a hard time executing the basics.”
One player who has exceeded Leatherwood’s expectations this year is sophomore Jasiman Dykes.
Leatherwood said he switched Dykes from fullback to forward, and the move has paid off. Dykes has nine goals and three assists this season.
The Lady Eagles (8-7, 0-1 district) are a team which makes quick passes and many one-touch moves, Leatherwood said.
“Whoever has control of the midfield will win the game,” Leatherwood said.