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Soccer sets bar high, despite tough losses

Forward Abdi Gedi jockeys for position against the Shanley defense on Thursday at Sid Cichy Field. Daniel Determan / West Fargo Pioneer1 / 2
Keeper Nathan Sample heads back into the goal after giving up the third goal to Shanley. Daniel Determan / West Fargo Pioneer2 / 2

After a 14-5-2 overall record and fourth-place state finish last fall, the Packers will look to build on that success this year.

However, the team lost 12 seniors from last year, and they finished last week off with two tough losses to Fargo North and Fargo Shanley.

Despite these things head coach James Moe is not discouraged.

"We have a good group of kids that work hard," Moe said. "This is going to be a big year for us, because I think we have a chance to be very successful."

Moe, in his first year as head coach after spending the last seven years as Doug Millar's assistant, was well-received by players and fans upon taking over, and intends to maintain a coaching style and strategy consistent with what was in place before his time. In his first few weeks at the helm, he has already seen noticeable improvements in his team, but is waiting to see the full-team chemistry that last year's team had in abundance.

"They are kind of getting their lungs together for all of the running," Moe said. "For the last three or four years, we have had a really tight-knit group. This year, we are still trying to come together as a squad and read what teammates will do before they do it. We have had those connections in the past, but we don't really have that now. We have small groups that work well together, but not as a whole."

One thing the team does have is experience, especially in forward Abdi Gedi, midfielder Zuheer Al-Abase and goalkeeper Nathan Sample, who is in his second year as the Packers' primary netminder.

"It's nice anytime you can have a guy with a year or two of experience back there," Moe said. "He has always been confident, but now that it's his senior year, he is stepping up big. His ultimate goal is to play well and make it to state, and he pushes the guys to be there with him."

Along with that experience, the team is complemented with a great deal of depth on its bench.

"We have a lot of options," Moe said. "Some teams run 12 or 13 guys the whole game. I can run 18 or 19 guys and feel confident in their skills. I don't always do it, but knowing we have a bench that can step in any time we need them is really nice."

However, with lack of chemistry comes a lack of communication on the field. Moe has noticed a level of communication in his team in small spurts, but then it will "just disappear." This was no more apparent in the second half of last Tuesday's game against the Spartans.

"We came out strong, communicating and working the ball," Moe said. "Then, we forgot how to talk all of the sudden. I think we beat ourselves. We stopped communicating and became a lot of individuals. That is not who we are."

Last week's losses bring the Packers to 3-3 on the season, but expects a different result at the end of the season.

"Every coach told me that we are the team to beat, which is a good thing and a bad thing," Moe said. "As the season goes on, you see what needs work, but I think being in the top two or three teams is possible, and I think people expect that out of us."

The Packers head to Grand Forks tomorrow to take on the Red River Roughriders. They will follow that up with a home match against the Bruins of Fargo South on Tuesday. Both games start at 7 p.m.