LJ Santa Maria
Hazleton is off to a hot 5-0 start, with four of those being all-important PSUAC games. The Hazleton football club is ranked Number 2 in the nation in the USCAA power rankings. Some of these lopsided victories include a 6-0 win over Penn State York and a thrashing of Penn State Mont Alto with a 10-0 victory. They have only surrendered 3 goals thus far, outscoring their opponents 26-3.
"It's a good mix of both, and everyone el se on the field. Defense starts as soon as you lose the ball, not one person is responsible, everyone on the field is playing defense at the same time, and I can credit goaltender Elliot with a lot of good saves," said sophomore center back Dylan Metz. "This is more of an attacking team, we like to take it to them, basically dominate them. Coach has a nonchalant attitude, whatever works to get a W. Being sophomores in college, we know how to switch the point of an attack, read the field and move the ball around."
Chemistry is another word being thrown around by coaches and players alike on the team, attributing that to their early season success. Coach Shawn Holcombe is one of the people impressed with the chemistry displayed by the team.
"One of the things that attracted me to this position was this notion that there was a core group of people on that team that were focused on one thing, and they are focused on this one particular goal. It makes it very easy to work with them; they are a very dedicated bunch. It’s not like they need a lot of prodding, and coaxing to get them to do the right thing. If you put it to them, they'll execute."
Metz agreed with the coach's sentiments about team chemistry, "We all get along well, hang out a lot and the team really isn’t bickering like it was last year. There's a lot of team chemistry so it's a lot of fun. We have a good mix of returning players with incoming freshmen."
The club got their first scare last Tuesday in their home opener, eking out a 1-0 victory over Penn State Wilkes Barre.
Holcombe, however, was not too worried by the close call, "A win, is a win, is a win. It was not by design that’s for sure, but a win is a win, and coming out of there with a victory is the only thing that was important."
Holcombe also thought the close call could be attributed to the fact that his team took their opponent for granted seeing that their previous score lines did not exactly match that of Hazleton 's fiery start and he has a plan to ensure that that mistake is prevented.
"Oh, I will remind them of this, and remind them and remind them and make sure they don't make the same mistakes again," said Holcombe with a grin.
One aspect of last night’s game that Holcombe was very satisfied with was that Wilkes Barre has at least one goal in every conference game they played thus far except for last Tuesday.
"Our defensive back line held up and did what they were supposed to do, yet there are some aspects to goal scoring we will work on. However, it all boils down to the willingness to see the field and opportunities, and make sure those opportunities are taken. We outshot them 29-4, so we just need to get better at finishing."
The team will have to make sure not to overlook their next few opponents as an Oct. 16 match up with Penn College looms where they will be trying to avenge their State Final loss to Penn a year ago.