Soccer showdown will help Jays, Crusaders get focused

Motivation won’t be a problem tonight at the 179 Soccer Park.

After opening the season with seven straight victories, the Helias Crusaders are looking to return to their winning ways after splitting their last eight contests.

The Jefferson City Jays are entering the tail end of a stretch of 14 games in 19 days.

There’s nothing like a crosstown showdown to help hone a team’s focus.

“The players have been talking about how they’re ready to play J.C., we need to be ready when the whistle blows,” Helias coach Chuck Register said Sunday. “We’ve seen a lot of good teams lately, we’re going to see another one (tonight).”

For the Jays, facing the Crusaders may help them get past the fatigue brought about by their recent slate.

“It is the most brutal schedule we’ve had at Jeff City,” Jays coach Eddie Horn said. “Of the 14 games in this stretch, six of them have been against state-ranked teams and one was nationally ranked.

“Mentally and physically, we’re worn out. Our spirits are good, that’s a positive.”

Jefferson City (15-3, ranked No. 7 in Class 3 by the Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association) is coming off a second-place finish in the Kickapoo Tournament over the weekend.

Marcus Woodruff leads the Jays in scoring with 25 goals.

“He’s scoring some big goals in big games,” Horn said. “And there’s a great group of guys who are getting him the ball with players like Aaron Crane and Nathan Luebbert and Mason Vonderhaar.”

Those four are all seniors.

“It’s a very good group of upperclassmen who are playing well together,” Register said. “Those guys are quick and they can all finish.”

Gage West and Dominic Salamone have six goals each to lead the Crusaders (11-4, ranked No. 9 in Class 2), who are coming off a 2-1 win last Thursday at Mexico.

“All the play goes through Gage and he does a great job of seeing the field and getting the ball where it needs to be,” Horn said. “And Dominic is a handful up top.”

Both teams are strong defensively. Kyle Daledovich has seven shutouts for Helias, which is allowing just more than one goal a game.

“Helias is going to be hard to score on,” Horn said. “Kyle does a great job in goal and their guys in the back are strong as well.”

Alex Hilke has seven of Jefferson City’s 10 shutouts and is giving up less than a goal per contest.

“They’re solid everywhere,” Register said. “They don’t have many weaknesses.”

The Jays and Crusaders have two common opponents — Battle and Rolla. Helias beat Battle (3-1) and lost to Rolla (4-0), while Jefferson City beat Battle (10-0) and Rolla (2-1).

Jefferson City won last year’s meeting 2-0 on goals by Vonderhaar and Crane.

Helias is the home team for tonight’s action, which begins with the junior varsity game at 5 p.m. The varsity contest will follow around 6:45 p.m.

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