A 0-0 draw Monday against Horizon Christian in Hood River may have marked a turning point in Trout Lake's boys soccer team's season.
After losing its first four matches by a combined score of 19-3, the Mustangs held their own against the Hawks with a revamped lineup that sacrifices offense for a beefed up defensive presence.
"Our shifting of kids around is allowing us to stay in games and be competitive," said Mustangs Coach Doug Dearden. "It's a strategy that I think will work better for us."
The realignment--in which Trout Lake has moved more veteran players from forward positions to the back line--has benefitted first-year Mustangs goalkeeper Kris Wood, in particular. He has 15 saves in his last two matches versus two goals against.
"Our defense was strong against Horizon," Dearden said, "and Kris was a big part of that with seven saves. He was pretty much in the right place all day. It was nice to seem him get the shutout."
Overall, Trout Lake's performance Monday was in plain contrast to its first match last weekend in Sunnyside.
Valley Christian of Spokane lit up the Trout Lake goal nine times in an eight-goal, non-league victory last Friday.
Exchange student Karn Gunnoi scored Trout Lake's goal unassisted in the 28th minute to cut Valley's lead to 3-1.
"Karn shot and it bounced off their goalie and he followed it in," Dearden noted.
Valley, which led, 3-1, at the break, put Trout Lake away in the final 15 minutes, netting four goals.
"It was a blowout but we didn't play as badly as the score indicates," Dearden said. "Still, it got me to thinking that maybe we needed to make some changes."
The next day against Evergreen Lutheran of Everett, with the reshuffled lineup on the Sunnyside field, the Mustangs were able to keep the scoring down.
"We lost, 2-0, but I thought we played really well," Dearden said. "It was 0-0 until Evergreen scored late in the first half and stayed 1-0 until they scored on a penalty kick with about four minutes left."
Trout Lake had an opportunity to square the match in the 75th minute. Gunnoi ran down a throw-in from midfield and was one-on-one with Evergreen's goalie before being tripped up in the goal box.
But the Mustangs missed the ensuing penalty kick, then surrendered one at the other end.
On the whole, however, Dearden liked the effort his team gave. "We played really well," he said, "so I think the strategy worked."