Sometimes the best team wins and sometimes they do not, as evident by the Mingus Union boys' soccer teams split games on Jan. 8-9.
First the boys rebounded from their first loss by shutting out North Pointe Prep 4-0. They followed that with their only back-to-back games of the season with a 2-0 loss to Scottsdale Prep.
"We're taking every game as a game that is must win," said head coach Calvin Behlow. "To put yourself in the top-10, top-15 teams, three losses is max. We're at two now, so every game we play we're taking serious. It's definitely not a buffer for any other game."
The Falcons are one of the worst teams in Division-III, which gave the Marauders a chance to do something that had been foreign to them up to that point, score a first half. They ended up netting four on the day, improving to 5-1 with the win.
"That North Pointe team, they are a co-ed team; they played their girls when we went up big," Behlow said. "I wanted to get some goals early and then rest some people because that's our only back-to-back game this year ... it was a game that we had to win and we played as hard as we needed to, to win that game."
By that time, the boys had risen to No. 5 in the aia365.com D-III rankings. The next day they traveled to Scottsdale for their first top-10 test of the season, Scottsdale Prep Academy.
"Going into Scottsdale Prep, we had a lot of things happen ... we were out five guys before the game due to injury ... everyone was a little beat up," Behlow said. "We played on a funky field; it was like a park field where there were no bleachers. We had to stand the entire game, parents were sitting between the teams, it just had a weird vibe to it."
The Marauders controlled most of the game and out-shot the Spartans, but it was the luck of the bounce that befitted the home team.
"I think that it was our best played possession game of the year, which is why I'm so discouraged in coming out with a loss," Behlow said. "Scottsdale Prep had four shots on goal. Their first shot was 12 minutes into the game and it went in, that changed the dynamics of their team. They packed it in and that's one of the reasons we were able to play such good possession."
The Spartans were able to get on the board in the opening minute of the contest. Following that, it was a battle for traction as Scottsdale Prep tried to extend their lead and Mingus Union attempted to knot the game.
Mingus Union had the shots on goal, but they were hitting the bar or just barely missing.
"I think we had 22 shots on goal that game, hit posts, we had a great shot going into the goal that deflects off a defenders shoulder, just glances off a defenders shoulder, and lands right into the keepers chest," BEhlow said. "Things just ... bad luck. It wasn't meant to be that day."
As time ticked away to end the game, the Marauders pulled everyone up in an attempt to tie the game. This opened the Mingus goal up for the Spartans offense and they scored another in garbage time.
"Their last shot of the game with eight seconds left went in, I [had] pulled everyone up," Behlow said. "So it was a 1-0 loss. The second goal is them just taking advantage of us trying to score, but a 1-0 loss, 2-0 loss is still a loss in the column."
With the 2-1 loss, the Marauders dropped from No. 5 in the AIA rankings No. 10, but moved up to No. 8 as of the writing. The Spartans were the big benefactor, jumping all the way to No. 3 in both the AIA rankings and the azcentral.com rankings.
"You'd like to give the kids, after back-to-back, a day off and we opted not to," Behlow said. "We opted not come out and ran shooting drills for about 45 minutes after some light touches."
While Scottsdale Christian is getting love, the Marauders are flying under the radar. With it being Behlow's first year as head coach, there was not the opportunity to travel to tournaments in the valley and show off his team. Instead they have been racking up wins and being underrated, getting little respect.
They will have an opportunity to show that they belong near the top of those rankings when they travel to Scottsdale Christian Academy on Jan. 16, following a home game against Page on Jan. 14.