It was interesting to watch Susquehannock boys' soccer coach Will Whitty during the early part of the Warriors' 5-0 victory against Eastern York Thursday night.
Sitting on an overturned bucket next the team bench, Whitty exhorted his squad from the opening kick to compete for every loose ball. To harry Eastern York every time it got possession. He wanted his team to win with effort.
Thanks to that work ethic -- and a fluid passing game that ran circles around the Golden Knights defense -- Eastern controlled the game from start to finish. No Eastern York player, it seemed, could touch the ball without a Warrior in hot pursuit.
That, in a nutshell, describes the difference between this Susquehannock soccer team and the one that was in crisis three weeks ago, after Division II losses to Eastern and West York.
"There was confusion within our team as to what made us successful last year," said Whitty, an assistant on last year's team who's in his first season as head coach. "We have some very talented kids, but we have to show our heart. We have to outwork people."
Now? Those struggles are a distant memory, and the Warriors look to be rounding into form at just the right time. And while scorelines can be misleading in soccer sometimes, 5-0 aptly described the arc of Thursday's game. Eastern was outshot 11-2 and didn't manage a single corner.
Whitty said the slump was thanks mostly to a bout of complacency after last year's state title run. The team, he said, tried to rely too much on its talent instead of outhustling opponents.
"It's a totally different team than at the beginning of the year," Whitty said, "and it's maturing just like I hoped it would."
How much better has Susquehannock been? Since losing to West York, 1-0, on Sept. 24, the Warriors have won six games by a combined score of 24-4.
And though Division II might out of reach -- Susquehannock plays division leader West York on Friday, but needs the Bulldogs to drop points before then -- the Warriors are well-positioned for a possible run in YAIAA tournament and districts.
"This is definitely the best (we've played)," said senior Dakota Connor, one of the Warriors' goal scorers Thursday. "It's going to keep getting better, too."