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Losing four times during a five-game stretch with the post-season just around the corner would normally be enough to keep a coach up at night. But while he recognizes his team’s misfortunes of late, Grant County boys’ soccer coach Garrett Griffith isn’t losing any sleep.
Griffith, whose Braves were a sparkling 9-2-1 after winning the Dry Ridge Toyota Cup two weeks ago, has watched his team drop back-to-back games two times since then to fall to 10-6-1 overall with only one game left in the regular season.
But Griffith is not in panic mode. He is instead focused on continued improvement as a cure for his team between now and the start of the district tournament.
“We are a young team. And all the games we’ve lost, if you go back and look, it’s just mental mistakes that could have been prevented,” Griffith said. “The guys just have to get mentally stronger and tougher.”
A recurring problem for the Braves has been losing focus after building an early lead, which was the case in Monday’s 3-2 loss on the road at Calvary Christian. The Braves were up 2-0 before mental lapses allowed the host team to come back and win.
“The guys have to remain mentally strong throughout the entire game and play with the same intensity from start to finish,” said Griffith.
Stuart Smith put the Braves on the board first versus Calvary Christian when he took a pass from fellow freshman Matthew Barnett and deposited the ball in the back of the net. Nathan
Yaeger scored Grant County’s second goal before the Braves’ offense stalled.
Sandwiched in between a pair of recent back-to-back losses by the Braves was an impressive 4-0 win over visiting Villa Madonna. In that game, Yaeger led Grant County’s offensive charge with two goals, while Joel Hornsby chipped in two assists.
Robbie Nelson also scored a goal for the winners, with teammate Cesar Barajas adding an assist.
But it was sophomore Dustin Williams that continued to impress with a goal and assist in the victory.
“Dustin is one of our most improved players this year,” said Griffith. “He went from being a role player who would come in and give us a change of pace to someone who is starting every game and contributing heavily.
“Dustin is very smart and he has gotten so much better,” continued Griffith. “He gives us another scoring option which is what we need, especially heading into the playoffs. You want people who can score goals, and Dustin fills that role.”
Grant County will close out its regular season schedule at 7 p.m. on Oct. 10 when Campbell County visits Dry Ridge. The district tournament, which is being held at Simon Kenton, is set to begin on Oct. 14.
Griffith said it will be business as usual for his Braves down the stretch as they prepare to make a strong post-season run.
“I just want to see us continue to improve,” he said. “We are getting better offensively, but we are starting to slack off a little defensively, which is where our strengths are. I want to see us play strong both offensively and defensivley and we’ll be fine.”