While the final box score may not reflect it, Sycamore High School’s Tuesday night soccer match at Northwest was an embodiment of its season thus far.
The War Eagles (12-1, 3-0 D12-AA) worked through a sluggish first half and held a 1-0 advantage at the break. They eventually broke through for a 3-0 victory, but it took players like Landon Gleaves and Dawson Atnip pushing through their first-half difficulties for the win.
“We’re a good team,” said SHS head coach Taylor McCullough. “We persevered, the next person stepped up, and we were able to get a couple goals in and walk out of here with a win.”
Despite winning 12 of their first 13 games, the War Eagles have been without three starters over the past four weeks. Noah Hardin and Nathaniel Biggs have stepped up into key roles in the place of defenseman Logan Moore and midfielder Micah Webb, who returned in a limited capacity on Tuesday.
They’re still missing star sophomore Davin Gleaves, who compiled 12 goals and two assists through his first four games. Landon Gleaves – Davin’s brother – and Atnip have taken over the scoring reigns, though: the duo has combined for 40 points since the striker suffered a collarbone injury March 30.
“We’ve just been training, and it’s been the ‘next man up’ kind of thing,” Atnip said. “The guy that comes in has to step up and, so far – since we’re 12-1 – they’ve been (successful).
“Me, Landon and Davin, all of us are good players. The way we’re connecting (and) kind of facilitating one another, that’s what just sets us apart. And the other guys back there, I know they may not look as great on the stats sheet, but they are a really big part of what we’re doing.”
Atnip tallied the first two goals against Northwest, the first coming off an assist from classmate Blas Leon in the 12th minute. Scoring ceased until the second half, where the MBA transfer connected on a header directly from the crossbar. Landon Gleaves found the back of the net in the 71st and sealed the win for Sycamore’s still-shorthanded squad.
The contest was the beginning of a five-match week for first-year coach Caitlin Pinhey’s team. The Vikings (5-7-1, 1-3-1 D10-AAA) are the fourth seed in their upcoming district tournament. Northwest finishes out the regular season with three more non-district matches, where Pinhey hopes to see possessional consistency before the tournament begins.
“I think fourth is a really great feat for us in my first year with the program,” she said. “I think that having a full roster makes a difference with the game… I hope that they can do some big things and try and really push into the second round of the district tournament and go from there.”
With Davin Gleaves projected to return next week, the War Eagles’ chances of running the table in the district lie within their final two matches. This year’s team could become McCullough’s first ever top-seeded squad with a pair of wins against Creek Wood and Montgomery Central.
“This team, I love them,” McCullough said. “These guys, they have heart. They want to play, they want to win, and guys are stepping up.”