Del Sol’s boys soccer team finished last season one point shy of a playoff berth.
This season, at the halfway point of Southeast League play and with a pedestrian 3-2-1 league record, the fate of the Dragons looked potentially similar.
Del Sol (11-4-2) finished league play on a 6-1 run, earning the Southeast’s No. 2 seed and a first-round matchup with Las Vegas (7-3-7) at 4 p.m. in today’s Sunrise Region quarterfinals at Bettye Wilson Park.
“It was supposed to be a total rebuilding year,” Del Sol coach John Britt said. “This year’s seniors learned from the last two years. They put it together. We’re human, we make mistakes. But when you learn from them, you’re a better person and better group. That’s what they did.”
For Del Sol, the turnaround might have started with a 2-1 win over Tech in the Roadrunners’ only loss of the year. Or it might have been a 4-2 win at Silverado, the first road win over the Skyhawks in Del Sol’s brief history.
But Britt said he thinks it started earlier, at Del Sol’s first league match — a 3-1 win at Foothill.
“We were losing 1-0, and then we scored three goals in the second half,” Britt said. “And that’s when I said, ‘Wow.’ When you can come back from losing, that’s something special.”
Senior Jesse Romero pointed to the team’s increased intensity in practice.
“At practices, everybody started getting stronger,” Romero said. “We concentrated on playing better. We didn’t want to keep losing, so we worked harder. And then we started getting the results.”
The Dragons’ offense has been anything but one dimensional. Senior Eric Beil leads the team with 10 goals and nine assists, and Romero has chipped in eight goals and seven assists. But 11 players have found the back of the net, and 12 players have at least one assist.
“After our first two reality checks (with losses to) Tech and Silverado, we practiced harder than we had before then,” Beil said. “We thought we were good, but those helped us.”
Del Sol has relied on play in its offensive third, outscoring opponents 45-22.
“Everybody here wants to keep playing,” Beil said. “It’s not just a hobby for us; it’s a passion. … We want to play as long as possible and prove that Del Sol is better than people think, that we’re not a joke.”
In the other Sunrise Region quarterfinals, Desert Pines meets Coronado at 4 p.m., and at 6 p.m., Southeast top seed Tech plays Eldorado, and Northeast No. 1 Valley faces Silverado.
In the Sunset Region, also at Bettye Wilson, Bonanza faces Cimarron-Memorial, and Western plays Palo Verde at 4 p.m. At 6 p.m., Southwest No. 1 Bishop Gorman takes on Arbor View, and Northwest No. 1 Legacy meets Spring Valley.