The Wheaton women's soccer team is out to prove a point. Despite a dominating regular season statistically, the Thunder players feel they are just now hitting stride and now that they are in the NCAA Division III sectionals they can show how good they are all while getting a little payback.
Friday Wheaton will play Emory College in San Antonio for the right to move on in the tournament. That is the same Emory team that knocked off the Thunder in the Final Four and again in a 2010 shootout. However, this year senior CCIW player of the year Leah DeMoss said they are looking to prove themselves.
"I know they have not seen my best and other players feel that way too," DeMoss said. "They didn't get Wheaton's best last time we played them. I talked to girls that have been there three, four years and they are sick and tired of losing to the same team."
Last year was a difficult end for DeMoss. The team's leading scorer was sick with a fever in the days before the Final Four game and neither she nor Wheaton coach Pete Felske thought she was at her best. Although she is fighting through a nagging, season-long hamstring injury, DeMoss said she will be completely ready to go Friday.
While the two teams are the same, Felske has tweaked his team's strategy to change the outcome. Felske said they plan on bringing in extra attackers to put pressure on the stingy Emory defense.
"We are going to be less conservative," Felske said. "We are always of the mindset that offense wins games, not defense. Defense keeps you in games but offense wins them. We are going for the win this game, not playing for a tie or penalty kicks."
So far the offensive attack in the playoffs has been working. In its first two games the Thunder scored a combined 7 goals.
The team flies down to San Antonio on Thursday morning and DeMoss is looking forward to it. Even though the players have to fly across the country the forward would much rather be away from all distractions and even more importantly, the weather. If Wheaton wins on Friday they have a quick turnaround with another game Saturday, but Felske is only worried about one thing at a time.
"I think what we're trying to stress is we're not playing Emory, we are playing ourselves," Felske said. "If we play well we can beat anyone."
With the playoffs coming this weekend everything has been going right for North Central's football team. Undefeated on the season, CCIW champion and now it claims 16 all-CCIW players, including the offensive and defensive player of the year. However, all of that is for not without playoff success.
This Saturday the Cardinals will host Albion for their first-round Division III playoff game. Coach John Thorne is relying on his seniors to help lead the team on a playoff run and he is keeping them focused on the game ahead.
"This has been a really great group of senior captains and leaders, they have done so many great things during the off-season and season," Thorne said. "Every week we try really hard, all of us players and coaches, to stay focused on the team that week."
This week it's an Albion team that is looking to attack with explosive plays. Thorne said the Cardinals have watched film of Albion's game early in the year against Wheaton and sees some similarities in their style to teams the Cardinals have faced this season. Behind the leadership of quarterback Spencer Stanek, linebacker Nick Slezak and defensive back Shane Dierking, Thorne is confident in his team this week and going forward.
"We've got a really good group of seniors," Dierking said. "I think this is the best team we've ever had."