A loss is never a good thing in the moment but in the big picture it can help frame a team for success when it matters most. Dexter lost a few weeks back to Jackson 2-1 in an SEC regular-season match – it was their first and only loss of the season.
“It might not be a bad thing because it proves we are not invincible and if we don’t play the way we are capable, we can be beat,” said Dexter head soccer coach Drew Ducker. “But we have won all the other games we have played except for four draws. Overall, it’s been a good season.”
The Dreadnaughts open District play at 5 p.m. on Thursday against Belleville at Dexter. And while it’s never a good thing to assume or take an opponent for granted, Dexter should move on to the second round of Districts – and that’s where everything changes.
“I think going into Districts without a loss could have been dangerous,” Ducker says. “Losing to Jackson really shook us up and refocused us.”
The Dreadnaughts also know through experience that if they fall behind, they are not out of the game. And why learning how to play from behind will be a good experience to have in their back pocket
“We have had five or six games where we have fallen behind and come back and won or tied,” Ducker said. “So that gives us confidence if we do fall behind. But this is Districts and this is when it really counts so we will see how good we are real soon.”
Dexter will face Saline in the second round of Districts – assuming they both beat their first-round opponents. Skyline, the defending state champion, and a very good Pioneer team are on the other side of the bracket. The District semifinal games are on Tuesday with the finals on Thursday. All the games are at Dexter.
“Getting through this District won’t be easy but I feel like we have the ability to do it,” Ducker says. “If we can put together a good game plan and the boys are able to execute it we could pull off a couple upsets along the way.”
The good news for Dexter is that if they can knock off Saline, they will only have to face Skyline OR Pioneer in the final.
“It’s certainly a very tough District,” Ducker says. “Skyline is the defending state champs and Saline lost to Skyline last year and they could have gone far as well had they won that game. Pioneer has done really well this year too. We tied them earlier in the year and to be honest we were probably a little lucky to get out of there with a draw.”
But first things first and first is Belleville.
“Our assistant coach Jamie (Lewis) scouted them about a week ago so we will go over what he saw and put together a game plan,” Ducker said. “We will more or less just play our game and attack them like we usually try to do and hope for a positive result.”
Next up would be Saline, a longtime state soccer powerhouse. The two teams played earlier in the season and tied so it should be a pretty even match with much more on the line this time around.
“We have shuffled things around quite a bit since we last played them and we’ve gotten a lot better since then as well, which I’m sure they have too,” Ducker said. “If we can get by Belleville we are confident that we will put together a good game plan for Saline. But it’s certainly going to be a battle.”
Ducker says the Dreadnaughts are ready for the challenge.
“Everyone is healthy right now,” he said. “We had some sickness the last week but everyone seems to be over that. If we can maximize our performance we hope to have a good showing in Districts.
“Our shape defensively has been one of our strengths and our back line, including our keeper, has been consistent and tremendous all season. We talk about winning those 50-50 challenges, being nice and compact, attacking when there is an opportunity and being solid in transition. But our defense should be ready to go right from the start.
“Offensively, when we get the ball moving quickly, we tend to keep the ball and play well and create more opportunities to score. We will look to our back line and our (midfielders) to get the ball moving quickly. The big component for us will be in the final third where when we create good opportunities to finish and that’s something we have been improving on.”
Another key will be turning set pieces into goals and defending set pieces.
“We will be working on the set pieces such as free kicks for and against and working on creating scoring chances off corner kicks and throw-ins as well,” he said. “We have to be able to capitalize when we get opportunities.”
DEXTER DISTRICT SOCCER SCHEDULE
Dexter vs. Belleville
5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10
At Dexter HS
Saline vs. Lincoln
5 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 9
At Saline HS
Pioneer vs. Ypsilanti
3:30 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10
At Dexter HS
Skyline vs. Huron
5 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 10
At Huron HS
Pioneer-Ypsilanti winner vs. Huron-Skyline winner
5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16 at Dexter (Al Ritt Stadium)
Dexter-Belleville winner vs. Saline-Lincoln winner
7 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 16 at Dexter (Al Ritt Stadium)
5 p.m., Friday, Oct. 18 at Dexter HS (Al Ritt Stadium)