Changes for the Vernon Hills boys soccer team have helped produce a huge turnaround to start the season.
The Cougars are off to their best start in years, as they are unbeaten in five games.
They played to a scoreless tie with visiting Deerfield at Rust-Oleum Field Tuesday night.
"A lot of the kids are believing what the coaches have come in and tried to do this year," Vernon Hills coach Vince DeLuca said. "We've got kids playing different positions and kids that weren't on varsity last year that are now playing more.
"We wanted to change the attitude of the program," DeLuca added. "But it's an unfinished product, and we need to keep building on it and keep putting games together."
Vernon Hills (4-0-1) won its own Cougar Classic last Saturday for the first time and was worried about a letdown against Deerfield (1-2-1).
"We talked about coming back after our own tournament and not being to overconfident," DeLuca said. "This was a good game to see how we would respond. It was nice not to give away this game."
The Cougars have been dominant defensively through five games, as they've allowed just 4 goals.
"The changes that we made are positive changes," DeLuca said. "We're learning to play back there. This was a great challenge against a good Deerfield team. We did what we needed to do in stopping their attack. They came at us full-blast. We bent a little bit, but we were able to hold our own and not give up a goal."
David Ortiz posted a clean sheet in goal with 8 stops for Vernon Hills. The defense in front of Ortiz included senior Bradley McGee and juniors Jonathan Veloz, Samuel Veren and Ryan Bryson.
"We've got a good, strong back line," McGee said. "After the first couple of games, things started clicking well for us. We're able to build out of the back.
"It's all about talking to each other and making sure the guys are running their crosses with communication."
Deerfield had its chances around the goal, but the defense for Vernon Hills stepped up.
"(Vernon Hills) played well against us," Deerfield coach Elliot Hurtig said. "Their defense caused problems for us. Hand it to them. They were physical and took it to us."