Conventional wisdom says defense wins championships, and the University High boys soccer team played as though it believed that when the Cubs hosted Leesville for a Division III quarterfinal Tuesday.
U-High (16-5-4) capitalized on three quick-strike goals in the first 12 minutes and shut down the Wampus Cats’ quick attackers on its way to a 4-0 win and a date with top-seeded St. Louis of Lake Charles in the semifinals.
“Lock-down defense. That’s what we’ve been working on all week,” U-High defender John Kurpius said, “and we executed really well tonight.
“We’ve been working on our one-on-one defense, and we were able to handle their speed. We’re not the fastest defense, but we were more technical than they were.
“Our defense held them down tonight, but the offense is who we have to hand the game ball to.”
That offense took only 1:30 to score the first goal in the first half when Major Mittendorf made a run from midfield down the left sideline and surprised goalkeeper Devin Toups with a strong shot for the score.
They scored even more quickly to start the second half when Paul Stouffer pounded home a rebound only :30 into the half.
In between those goals, Miguel Vilas converted a penalty kick after a Leesville hand ball in the box in the eighth minute, and Mittendorf collected his second goal off a throw-in three minutes later.
Villa had the Cubs final quality shot on goal late in the second half when he dribbled through three defenders for the opening but clanged his shot high off the far post.
“With high school kids, they get down early and their heads go down,” Leesville coach Joseph Saverino said. “You’ve got to find a way to get back in it. We knew what (U-High) was going to do, and you can have a million scouting reports, but they are just quality. They’re a good team, and they were better than us tonight.”
The loss ended the Wampus Cats’ first trip to the soccer quarterfinals. They finished 18-6-3.
U-High coach Chris Mitchell is happy with the way the Cubs are playing at this point and with their preparation for Leesville.
“We did a pretty good job of scouting them and working on some things in practice, and it seemed to work,” he said. “We were ready to go, and at halftime we were still focused. Then we came right out and scored to start the second half.
“It was a great win, we got a ton of guys on the field, and I’m real proud of all of them,” he said.
One of the impressive players on the field for the visitors was senior center back William Thomas, who Mitchell said had caught their attention in their scouting reports as someone who ran everything down. The athletic and strong-legged Thomas thwarted numerous attacks and sent booming kicks out of the Leesville defensive third.
“He’s the best high school defender I’ve ever coached or seen,” Saverino said.
Kurpuis, Mittendorf and the Cubs will now head to Lake Charles to face St. Louis.
“We haven’t played them this year, but it will be a challenge,” Mittendorf said. “We should go into that game with a lot of confidence.”