Losing is never fun, and last year the Avon Grove High School boys soccer team experienced more than their fair share of coming up on the short end of the scoreboard.
A year ago, Avon Grove finished just 1-16-1 overall while playing in a brutally tough Ches-Mont League National Division that featured eventual state champion Downingtown West among others.
"Towards the end of last season we were really down, physically and emotionally. We had a lot of tough losses and it really wears on you," said Avon Grove head coach Dave Whitcraft. "Nobody wants to go through a season like that. So the coaches and players committed themselves to making it a much better experience for everyone and that started back in December. Everyone has come into this season with a renewed enthusiasm."
Avon Grove, just six games into its 2009 season, is already well on its way to being the comeback team of the year in the Ches-Mont League.
For a squad that won just once all last year, the Red Devils already have people sitting up and taking notice with their play on the field as Avon Grove has jumped out to a 4-1-1 overall start. At 2-0-1 in the league, they currently sit in first place in the Ches-Mont's National Division.
Avon Grove has scored victories over Garnet Valley, Coatesville, Kennett and West Chester East already. Just this past Tuesday night, Avon Grove earned a hard-fought 1-1 tie against defending state champion Downingtown West.
"Things are definitely looking up. These guys have internalized the feelings they had from last year -- that's for sure," said Whitcraft. "Their confidence is far and above where it was last year.
"They've worked so hard to turn this thing around and when they see the results of their hard work that's huge. That does nothing but build their confidence. They know they can play with anybody in the league."
Some of the key players for Avon Grove this season, said Whitcraft, are senior Greg Anderson (center midfielder), senior Max Campbell (defender), senior Clay Hoffstein (defender), senior Ben Gurley (defender), senior Felix Longdragon (forward), junior Mark Gallagher (midfielder), junior Ben Forwood (forward) and senior Matt McCutcheon (goalie).
Avon Grove is having fun on the field so far this fall, winning will do that, but the Red Devils know there is still a long ways to go.
"We're a team that would've been overlooked for a while," said Whitcraft, "and now with a good start people are coming in more prepared because they know we've got something. We have to continue to raise our game as well and keep getting better each and every time we step on the field."