Connor Eli could not play sports last season as a transfer from Genoa.
Two games into his Rockets varsity soccer career, it looks as though he’s been together with his teammates for 10 years.
Eli scored four goals for the second straight game, including three in rapid succession Wednesday as Oak Harbor (2-0) shut out Fremont Ross 9-0 in a non-conference matchup.
“All year I was thinking about it,” Eli said. “I went to a few practices. We’ve been working hard. The hard work and patience are paying off even though it was hard not to play sports with the decision to come to Oak Harbor.”
Eli and Tate Haar communicated without saying a word Wednesday. Eli nodded to Haar in the middle of the field from the left side an approximation of where his cross was about go, but Haar already knew.
“If I come down the left I’ll put it near the 6 with my left foot,” said Eli, who also had three assists Wednesday. “It’s nothing planned, but he was there to put a head on it.”
Haar and Andy Burnette each added two goals against the Little Giants (0-2). One of Burnett’s goals had a bit of a screen and was in the net far post before anybody had time to be wiser.
“It’s not just team chemistry,” Haar said, “it’s a family. I wouldn’t ask for more. I love each one of them. We battle in practice and we want to be the best.
“The past couple years communication was not great. We know each other and are starting to understand how we play, but it’s the communication.
“We have captains and other guys who could be captains, including Connor.”
Trevor Hanely scored one goal Wednesday while Burnette and David Birchall each added an assist.
“Right now, it looks great,” Eli said of the group’s cooperation and teamwork. Oak Harbor won its first game 9-2. “Tate, Tim (Poiry), Tyler (Sievert) … I got to know the guys in school. We talked — not really about soccer — but we hung out in the summer and the chemistry is good.
“We’re not worried about who scores but about giving everybody chances.”
Haar had an idea what to expect from Eli, but eight goals in two games is even more than Haar had in mind.
“I played against him with Genoa,” Haar said. “I didn’t like him. He’s fast, he knows how to play soccer and I knew what we were adding. He’s one to watch out for. I’m glad we have him and Genoa doesn’t.”
Eli would certainly say the same of Haar, who has four assists in each of the first two games.
“If Tate feeds it to the corner, I can look once and I know guys will be there for a play or guys will be on the backside,” Eli said. “It’s getting to know each other and being able to look at each other and know where it will be without saying much. That helps.
“With non-verbal communication, we know each other as a team. It’s all over the field.”
Oak Harbor’s defense also has obviously been strong in the first two games. When one Rocket makes a run to a corner, another steps in to fill the vacated space as the team tries to consider spacing and play-making on the attack.
Ross had only about two shots on goal in the second half and very limited pressure throughout. Oak Harbor’s attackers trust the defenders and vice versa.
“Our defense is smarter and quick and transitions to take away opportunities teams will need against us,” Haar said.
Rockets coach Ken Filar wants his boys to avoid being their own worst enemy.
“Everybody played in both games,” Filar said. “We did a good job getting fit. Tate led the group and everybody went hard. We had competition for spots and had to make cuts. We’re in good shape for the next several years. We’ve been working for two years to get where we are. We won’t take anybody lightly.
“In any sport, the top teams get upset because they start reading the clippings. If we play smart and hungry and protect the ball, we’ll be fine. Connor didn’t do anything by himself. They’re working together. They’re very unselfish. Connor’s been the one on the finishing end and next game it will be somebody else.”
The Little Giants’ goalkeeper made a few plays in the first half to try to keep his team in the game. A Ross defender also prevented a goal.
“We’re still trying to figure out what we’re going to do with formations,” Little Giants coach Ron Ackerman said. “We had a few good balls through, but we didn’t play to space.”
The best scoring chance for Ross came as Armando Gonzalez tried to loft a shot over Kyle Draper, but Draper reached high to make the save.