Schmoldt: Delavan-Darien's run no easy feat
A defending state champion can’t often stake a claim that it’s being overlooked.
And when it’s ranked No. 1 in its division in the state of Wisconsin, few folks, if any, will be interested in some sort of sob story.
This isn’t that.
But this season certainly hasn’t been as easy as a 24-1-3 record might indicate. And Delavan-Darien boys soccer coach Mike Marse definitely heard doubters.
His Comets returned just four starters from last year’s WIAA Division 3 state championship team. So the No. 1 ranking in the preseason was mostly out of respect for the defending champions, and it wouldn’t have been surprising if the new group, lacking varsity experience, suffered a setback and lost the No. 1 ranking it wouldn’t have been all that surprising.
But the Comets rattled off eight straight victories to open the season, all but one coming by four goals or more.
Then, injuries hit.
Jaime Rodriguez, a senior captain who was an honorable mention all-state selection last year as a midfielder, went down with a knee injury in the ninth game, a tie against Southern Lakes Conference rival Elkhorn on Sept. 7.
Sophomore Dieonte Orth, assuming a more prominent role up top, was also lost for the season shortly thereafter.
“We lost Jaime. We lost Orth, who had eight goals in his first nine games, playing 20 minutes a game,” Marse said. “Then we lost Ulysses (Reyes) on the outside.
“We were playing with third- and fourth-string guys at our outside mid and our center mid.
“I heard a lot of naysayers. After Jaime got hurt, they said, ‘You’re done.’”
While Cano and Zeus Huerta have the gaudy statistics, they’re the first to admit they wouldn’t be back at state without their younger teammates stepping up.
Junior Pablo Guzman Martinez has put together his second consecutive solid season, stabilizing a midfield that otherwise had moving parts. Daniel Rangel and Andres Vasquez did a lot of the grunt work and have been rewarded recently by scoring critical goals during sectional play. And first-year keeper Hugo Valadez has held his own, allowing just 17 goals.
Just to name a few.
“At first we were nervous (after the injuries), but once people started playing, we had so much depth in our squad that it didn’t really matter that much,” Huerta said.
There have been some hiccups. The Comets’ only loss was 2-0 at Elkhorn, losing the Southern Lakes title just one game after allowing three late goals in a draw with Beloit.
In the state’s toughest sectional, the Comets never led in regulation or overtime of a 2-2 draw with Shorewood in the semifinals but were able to survive with a shootout victory. Then they needed overtime again to dispatch Catholic Memorial and return to state.
A Cinderella story, this Delavan-Darien soccer team is not.
But when it comes to having a chance at a third state title in four years, these Comets had to earn it.