When the Dodge City Conquistadors men’s soccer team entered Memorial Stadium Wednesday night, they did so having lost the last two games by a combined score of 4-0.
By the time they left, they had just beaten the Hesston Larks 5-1, earning their first home-win of the season.
On a night when the Dodge City women’s team earned their head coach’s first home victory, the men’s team did the same thing for theirs.
“It’s great,” Conquistadors head coach Oscar Zelaya said. “After our last two loses I think this is going to be a good thing for the guys. We can tell chemistry’s building up, stuff that we do in training is coming up, so I think this is pretty good.”
The five goals in the game nearly matched the six total the team had scored in the previous six games this season. Until Wednesday night, the most the team had scored in a game was three, back on Aug. 26 against Kansas Wesleyan.
Sophomore midfielder Abel Chevelon led the way for the Conquistadors, scoring three goals for the first time this season.
“It feels really good,” Chevelon said. “We just put the work in in practice. The coach tells us what to do and we go on the field and do it.”
Chevelon is the kind of player Zelaya said works right to the end.
“I’ve been working with him since he got here,” Zelaya said. “He has developed as a player. His speed is, man it’s just too quick. That kid will push, that kid will work, because he knows the team he has and he knows that he can have a great season.”
That makes Chevelon an asset to the team, Zelaya said.
“I haven’t seen anybody that can stop him,” Chevelon said. “That speed is just helping him a lot.”
Zelaya said Wednesday’s win was completely due to strong efforts by the players. He said he even told the players in the locker room the same thing.
“I don’t take (any of the credit), it’s all them,” Zelaya said. “They’re the ones that push, they’re the ones that go out on the field (and) work their ass out there and work hard. It’s just them, all the work is them. I feel good, it’s great to win the first game, especially a home game we deserved (and) we needed, but that’s what happens when you do stuff the right way.”
Zelaya said the team seemed much more prepared that in previous games, and it showed almost immediately.
“You can see on their faces as soon as that first minute starts running on the clock, you can tell that they were ready,” Zelaya said. “They were ready to start talking, the movement, they started playing like more of a group and that’s what we’ve been asking. That’s what I told them.”
The win was not without frustration for the Conquistadors, however.
In the final seconds of the game, a Lark player ran down the sideline to the Conquistador goalkeeper’s right, drove toward the goalie, and broke up the shutout by putting the ball into the far side of the net. The goal counted, coming with half a second left.
Even though the team won 5-1, Zelaya said he was more focused on that final goal and on the mistakes made in the game, because he as a coach can fix them.
“I want (our play) to be perfect in every sense of the word,” Zelaya said. “We cannot let things come up, because how about if it would have been a different sort of game?”
Zelaya said that goal came partly because the team was celebrating the win before the game was over. Mental errors like that are ones he said the team will need to fix.
“I told them ‘you have to be prepared to the last minute,’” Zelaya said. “‘Once that whistle blows then we can go out there, celebrate, do whatever we have to do, but while that time is running stay prepared. Stay prepared, keep playing how you’ve been playing, but there’s no need for you to do something like that and then cost us a goal that we didn’t need in the end.’”
Dodge City next hosts Pratt in Dodge City on Sunday. The women’s team plays at 1 p.m. followed by the men’s team at 3 p.m.