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Story Last modified at 9:24 p.m. on Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Young Mustangs show maturity, toughness in 1-1 draw
Understaffed soccer team manages tie in match against West

BY MATT TUNSETH
Alaska Star

photo:Sports

Chugiak defenseman Dare Hedum tries to slow down West's Karani Mendez during a 1-1 Cook Inlet Conference draw on April 7 at The Dome in Anchorage.
STAR PHOTO by Matt Tunseth

Chugiak's boys soccer team needs to see the light.

"That's what we're looking forward to," said Mustangs senior Brad Fussner after his team's 1-1 draw with West in The Dome on April 7.

Fussner was speaking about a desire to begin outdoor play, but he could have just as easily been describing his team's mental game. Though Chugiak dominated the pitch against West, the Mustangs were slowed by the absence of three seniors who had to sit out because of a serious lapse in off-the-field judgment.

"It starts with those guys being ineligible because they chose not to go to school today," said coach George Campnell.

Last week was a designated Anchorage School District testing week, meaning seniors and other students who'd already passed their tests were largely exempt from classes. But district rules say anyone participating in an after-school activity still has to show up for school, and the three seniors decided to sleep in.

Campnell said the loss of the key players – another Mustang was sick – meant he had to play several younger players with little varsity experience. And he was impressed.

"This is the first game I'm actually proud of this team because the guys who stepped up and took their place showed heart and character," he said.

Chugiak looked inspired in the early going, getting big chances in the 15th and 20th minute before finally breaking through in the 34th thanks to some brilliant play by senior midfielder Fussner and junior forward Szliard Bott.

Fussner started the play by dribbling directly through the heart of the East midfield, drawing several defenders. As they converged, he slipped a pass ahead for the streaking Bott, who took time to steady himself before ripping a wicked, sidewinding shot into the back of the net.

Fussner was extremely disruptive all afternoon for the Mustangs, winning the majority of his challenges and frequently testing the West defense with expert feeds forward.

"He worked his rear end off," Campnell said.

Campnell also singled out the play of defender Dare Hedum, whose fearless clearances and aggressive passes were a major highlight.

"From the back to the front he was pushing it," Campnell said.

But with a short bench, Chugiak found itself chasing a bit in the second half, and it caught up to them in the 74th minute when Fatos Redzepi got his head on a pass from Abdou Sallah to get the equalizer.

Chugiak had several good chances in the second half, but couldn't convert, several times sending hot shots just a couple feet wide or a smidge too high.

"All week we worked on finishing, and the one thing we couldn't do today was finish," Fussner said.

The senior said the disappointing draw did provide some valuable lessons. One, the team learned it can play well with a depleted lineup.

"And we know we're better than them," he said.

Campnell said he wasn't upset with the lack of finishing touch.

"They worked hard, they fought," Campnell said. "It was unfortunate that we got countered and they scored, but they'll get those chances to go in eventually."

What he is concerned with, however, is the apparent lack of buy-in from some of his older players, and said he hoped the work done by their lesser-heralded teammates sounded an alarm.

"If our younger guys can show it, our older ones will have to step up or they're going to be sitting on the bench," he said.

The draw put Chugiak's record at 2-2-1 this season. The team's last indoor game is April 16 against Bartlett.

Contact Matt Tunseth at 694-2727 or matt.tunseth@alaskastar.com.

MUSTANGS 1, EAGLES 1

Chugiak 1 0 – 1

West 0 1 – 1

Chugiak – Bott (34th)

West – Redzepi (74th)



This article published in The Alaska Star on Wednesday, April 13, 2011.