OMAHA – South Sioux City is a program with a rich tradition in boys soccer. A state championship and three runner-up finishes can attest to that.
So it is a little surprising when Cardinals head coach Lupe Gonzalez said the biggest reason his team is set to play in the Class B championship game at the Nebraska Boys State Soccer Championships is the decision to take its style of play in a completely different direction.
“For years this program that was built so long ago our style was we play pretty and we are a high-scoring team,” Gonzalez said. “That had been kind of the model for years. The way we look at it now is that it doesn’t have to be pretty to win. We just like to get the job done, and by us getting the job done it is pressuring, forcing a mistake, not taking a break.
“Maybe it is a new style we are trying to put here at the high school that has worked for us in the last year or so.”
It has worked to near perfection to this point with a postseason run that has included four straight shutouts and victories over Schuyler and Gretna at the state tournament by matching 1-0 scores.
“As long as everyone is working hard, everyone is doing their job I think we will take the win just how we get it,” Gonzalez said.
The fact that South Sioux (16-5) is right back in this position a year after falling to the same Elkhorn South team it will play on Tuesday night for the Class B state title having to replace perhaps its two most dynamic scorers off that team is a testament to the entire soccer program.
“We have been fortunate to have such a great soccer program in the Siouxland area, and not just South Sioux, but the Siouxland area,” Gonzalez said. “I have to thank all the coaches that volunteer at the club level that help with the development of these young kids that one day get to high school.”
It is truly a community effort that leads to a seemingly never-ending pipeline of impressive players that enter not only into the South Sioux program but Sioux City schools as well.
Gonzalez believes that the big games and state championships that have been played and won during the club season translates well to the high school season and the state tournament.
“The commitment and not being nervous because oh, this is such a big game, this is a final,” he said. “You have been here before and played big games. Let’s just play.”
Gonzalez said the fact that so many of his players were so calm and relaxed before the semifinal with Gretna was almost unnerving for the coaches, but his team has approached each game with the sense that they have a job to do. If they do their job the victory will follow.
The attacking and relentless pressure on seemingly every ball has unnerved one opponent after another this postseason.
Sophomore goalkeeper Adan Curiel has yet to give up a goal at state while both of the team’s goals have come in different ways. Michael Virgen blasted a rocket from 30 yards out to secure the victory over Schuyler. Benjamin Plascencia Renteria capitalized on a mistake to beat the Grenta goalie for the winning tally.
Each season brings a new team with a different identity, but it is obvious that these Cardinals have been motivated to right the wrong they experienced in last year’s 3-2 overtime title game defeat to the Storm (14-6).
“They have used that here in the last part of the season as a reminder of what can be accomplished if they really work hard,” Gonzalez said. “I would like to say you forget about last season and you start fresh but that would be a lie.”