By Vern Hee
Trojans made a huge comeback from two previous losses to Faith Lutheran this season to beat the Crusaders 3-0 for the state title.
The Trojans were very frank after the second loss to Faith. Pam Larmouth, head Trojans coach did not feel that her team played a smart game in the last outing. She said her team was very mental and had to get their heads on right for state.
For Larmouth, the game is all about possession.
“We said slow it down and keep possession. We tend to get high strung and then we start playing real fast and the balls are not really going where we want. They just slowed it down and kept possession of the ball,” she said.
How the team accomplished this was left up to Joe Sladek, assistant coach and chief strategist for the Trojans.
Last week Larmouth turned Sladek loose to do his thing.
Sladek said he knew what Faith was doing to his team. He said the Crusaders had been studying the Trojans’ tactics for some time. The Trojans know that Faith plays a different game against the Trojans because Sladek said he has watched them play other teams.
“They watched us play so many games that they knew we liked to widen the field out and play down the outsides and get some movement in the middle. So they marked our outside players. They threw our possession and rotation off by doing this,” he said. He said this is how they got the two victories against his squad.
All last week the team set about constructing a strategy to beat Faith. Sladek said it came down to three things: First, the Trojans had to take out Faith’s best player, lead Crusader scorer number 21 Arianna Weide, and keep her from scoring; second, the Trojans had to possess the ball more; and third, the Trojans had to get Sydney Sladek, lead scorer for the team, and the other forwards open to score.
Sladek said they made a few minor adjustments to the offense and defense for the state championship game to accomplish these goals.
“We played more narrow and played more possession and did not worry about going wide this game. So they did not know who to cover. We waited for them to make a mistake. We pulled Haley to mark their speed player, number 21, on the right and that is where all their attacks have come all year. So we took that player out of the game and played 10 on 10 on the rest of the field,” he said.
The week was all the Trojans needed to make the final preparations for the game.
“It only took the girls this week to learn the few adjustments we made. These girls have played enough that they know we mix it up a little depending on the team we play. We did not use this adjustment on South Tahoe and we just played our regular game because South Tahoe had never seen us play before,” said Sladek.
Haley Sladek said she had some reservations about her dad’s plan. Joe laid this on her on Monday after the regional game.
“I thought it was a good idea but I just felt I had to prepare for it. At first I did not think I could do it. I was nervous for awhile because she Weide is really fast and really good and I was scared that I was going to let everyone down if I could not stop her,” remarked Haley.
Sladek made the right choice. He wouldn’t have chose Haley unless he felt she was up for the job. He had said in past interviews he felt Haley was like a Sherman tank, and that means he knows she is tough. She was perfect for the job.
This move led to Weide only having two crosses the whole game and no goals. The tactic threw off the whole offense of the Crusaders. They never could score.
Sladek said because the Trojans possessed the ball so much during the game, the opposition could never get into a rhythm.
Theresa Klem, the mother of Kaitlin Klem, a defender on the team, felt the team made the right moves and liked what she saw.
“They switched up a few players as far as their positions. They are still playing their same defense. They had a forward playing a little to the left and one girl was shadowing another girl. Our team also had a little bit more speed up front,” she said.
Kaitlin said the team followed exactly what Sladek told them to do.
“I never lost confidence in Joe that he would figure this out,” she said.