Haslett boys soccer team streaking and keeping expectations high.
HASLETT, Mich. – Right now, the Haslett high school boys soccer team feels enthusiastic and confident. Their happy state comes from winning, on a seven-game streak since Aug. 29 and with a 11-5-1 record.
The Vikings are on track to capture a second-straight CAAC Red divison title.
Those are all wonderful things that seemed quite unlikely before the season started, when the team faced rebuilding itself on the field and the sideline. Twelve seniors graduated from last year’s team, and head coach Darius Ward left to go coach at Alma College.
Haslett lost five of its first nine games, and things didn’t feel as optimistic as they do today.
“The season started off a bit rocky, to be honest,” said senior captain Charlie Tuley. “But I think we have really come together through hard work and definitely picked it up. We have a good outlook at this point.”
This year’s team has 21 players, including three that never had played in a high school game before.
So Haslett realized this could be a rough season. Until things started changing.
“I don’t think our expectations were that high,” said Tuley. “But after seeing the team, we are a lot better than what I thought we would be.”
Losing Ward was also a big blow. But the players have adjusted well to Ramiro Salazar, the former JV coach for the past three seasons, who has brought different strategies and new leadership as head coach.
“I've been able to sit really for three years and observe from the previous coach some of the things we liked and some of the things we want to change and we’ve keyed in on those things,” he said.
Salazar was not new to Haslett’s program or his players. He coached the majority of the boys at a young age, when they played with his son, AJ Salazar. As the players grew up together, they had Salazar on the sideline.
Salazar knew what system he wanted to run, and the most effective way to implement it.
“A lot of what makes this easy is the relationship that I have with six of the seniors that I’ve coached since they were 10 years old,” he said. With this being their senior years now and knowing those guys for so long, being very comfortable with them and they are comfortable with me they’ve helped take this season to the heights that it can be at. They’ve been tremendous.”
From a player’s viewpoint, Tuley agrees.
“We’ve known his style and I think that really plays into what our team does,” said Tuley.
That also put more pressure on Tuley, Doran and the other seniors to help bring the inexperienced players up to speed.
“I wanted to make sure that we continued how hard we worked in the past,” said Doran.
Tuley believes they have been ready and prepping to take on that responsibility for a long time. And as the Vikings prepare for postseason action, their influence is starting to show amongst the team’s younger players.
Not only are they learning as they go through the season but they are contributing at a much higher level than Salazar could have expected.
“We’ve had two or three freshmen really step in and perform in very vital roles in what we do. That's been tremendous for us,” he said.
On the field, Tuley sees their improvement taking the Vikings to new heights.
“The younger guys have been really good,” he said. “They have adjusted pretty well, a lot of them have little experience and they have put in hard work and a lot of time.”
The mix of senior experience and young talent brought Haslett back into the conversation as one of the better teams in the area.
“People can have lower expectations,” he said. “That's fine, but as a program, we are going to have a high level of expectations and that's the way it should be here at Haslett,”