The Wichita Wings extended their undefeated streak to five games after a 9-3 victory over the New Mexico Runners on Sunday night at Hartman Arena.
New Mexico averages 9.7 goals per game with a plus-10 goal differential, but the Wings (5-0) held the Runners (4-3) to just three goals.
The Wings’ defensive performance played a big role in what coach Roger Downing believes was their best game of the season.
“What makes us special is that we defend,” Downing said. “We work our butts off getting back on defense and getting behind the ball. We stress that and the guys have bought in.”
The Wings set the tone and pace of the game early with their defensive efforts and took a 2-0 lead after the first quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wings picked up right where they left off and scored two early goals. In a physical battle that resulted in a Wings player in the penalty box, the Runners responded with a vengeance, scoring back-to-back goals.
The Wings answered with two more goals from forward Jared Robbins, ending the half with a 6-2 lead.
The rest of the scoring took place in the third quarter, where the Wings put up three more and only allowed one. The fourth quarter was a defensive battle.
“That was the best we’ve played yet this year,” Downing said. “I think that the more that we play, the younger guys are starting to understand and we’re getting better.”
A large part of the team’s dynamic and chemistry is the players’ roles in both mentoring and learning.
The age range and experience level vary, but that’s a big aspect that the Wings value about their team.
“The team chemistry is amazing,” goalkeeper Steven Hamersky said. “We have a bunch of kids that are brand new to this level of indoor and you got some veterans. It’s a nice mix and we’re meeting in the middle.”
Hamersky is one of the most experienced players on the team. He said that he enjoys playing the mentor role and leading by example for the younger players.
Among the younger players is one from the Wichita area, Ethan Doud. He decided not to wrestle his senior year of high school at Eisenhower so that he could focus on being a professional soccer player with the Wings.
Doud also played for Wichita Select, which is how he met Downing along with other Wings players.
“The older guys help me out so much. They always push me and make me better,” Doud said. “They teach me to never quit. They all work hard each and every day and never give up.”
Downing said youthfulness is something valuable that the new players bring to the team. He prefers for them to learn by doing, instead of just listening to the older members.
“They’re going to make dumb mistakes and we understand that, but they’re aggressive out there,” Downing said. “I always tell them ‘If you’re going to make a mistake, at least make an aggressive mistake not a passive mistake.’”
The Wings face their toughest opponent to date next Saturday. The Chihuahua Savage comes to Hartman Arena undefeated and on a five-game winning streak. They average 10.8 goals per game with a plus-36 goal differential.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.