The Hastings Raiders boys' soccer team extended their winning streak to six matches this past week as they added victories over Simley, New Life Academy and Minneapolis South to their resume. Hastings is now 9-4-1 overall and 3-2-1 in the Metro East Conference, which puts them alone in fourth with two conference matches left.
The Raiders beat Simley on the road 5-1 Sept. 26. They then went to New Life Academy and won 3-1 on Saturday, Sept. 30. On Monday, Oct. 2, they hosted Minneapolis South in the rain and storms and came away with a 1-0 victory, their lone goal courtesy of Joe Carlson.
"I think it's just been a combination of playing quicker in the midfield, getting the ball to dangerous spots and guys being in those right spots," head coach Jamie Swanson said about the Raiders turnaround from a slow start at the beginning of the season. "It's actually simple and our guys have enough skill and talent, I mean today (against New Life Academy) we had two really good team goals that got created from the back all the way to the front. It's only three or four passes, not six or seven, and I don't think any team is going to do that besides Stillwater and the big dogs. If we're playing quick and we're making quick decisions, things are happening. The quick decision making when we're in the attacking third is what's been allowing us to create opportunities to score and we're putting it in the goal."
Often it's a fine line between creating plenty of opportunities and not scoring, and putting the ball in the net.
"The fine line happens in training," Swanson explained. "We train finishing every single time we train. We fire with pressure, we move goals that are 30 yards apart and we're encouraging these guys to turn and shoot and turn and shoot, to lay off and shoot, it's all about just firing and firing and firing. I think the repetition is what develops the habits and when you have a habit where it's not going to go through the football goal post but it hits the back of the net, it's going to happen. We scored on a couple of free kicks at Hill-Murray, that's the culture I've tried to create is a culture of attacking and taking advantage of every opportunity you can."
Looking ahead to the last two matches of the season and seeding for sections, Swanson is expecting good things.
"Our goal is to win our three games this week (they beat Minneapolis South)," he explained. "Henry Sibley, no doubt about it if we go in confident we can take that game. I am 100 percent, if we go in with the right mentality against Mahtomedi down here on Thursday night, I think we finish the season with those final three wins and when you finish the season with eight straight wins you gain respect. You look at 11-4-1, we didn't play a cupcake schedule, this was a big boy schedule."
Part of the Raiders recent success has been senior Josh Lewanski, who has been on a scoring tear. And what does Swanson attribute this recent excellent play to?
"To be honest, since he started kicking for the football team I think he's scored more goals," Swanson said. "I think he's got like five or six in the last four games, something like that, and he had another two today (against New Life Academy)."
Hastings hosted Henry Sibley on Tuesday, Oct. 3, and then have their final regular season game at home against Mahtomedi on Thursday, Oct. 5. Section playoffs start next week.