Appleton West’s primary goals this soccer season were modest ones based around progress.
While other schools set their sights on capturing league titles, the Terrors just wanted to make a substantial climb in the rugged Fox Valley Association and finish with a winning conference record.
They are close to making that happen.
West scored back-to-back first-half goals in a 39-second span and leaned on its solid defense the rest of the way for a hard-earned 3-1 FVA win over Kaukauna on Tuesday night at the Nienhaus Sports Complex.
The Terrors improved to 3-2-1 in the FVA — not bad for a team that finished 2-6-1 in conference play each of the past two seasons.
“We finished eighth in the league the last two years and we’re not looking for that again,” said West senior defender Jack Schneider. “We’re looking for a top-half finish and hoping to finish in the top three.”
The Terrors can finish no worse than a third-place tie in the FVA with wins in their final league matches against Fond du Lac and Appleton East.
“Unlike last year, we’re competing in the conference,” said West coach Tim Stuebs. “In games that should be won by us, we’re taking care of business. Slowly, but surely we’re starting to possess the ball more and build a program. Hopefully, we can get out of conference with a winning record. That would mean a lot.”
West (4-9-3) has struggled outside the conference, but beefed up its nonconference schedule this fall and the tougher competition is paying off inside the FVA.
“Conference is what we focus on,” said Stuebs. “We’ve played good nonconference competition and it’s really helped us in conference.”
The Terrors struck early in the contest, getting consecutive goals by Juan Lopez and Aydan Leigh at the 4:55 and 5:35 marks to build a 2-0 lead at the half.
“That kind of shocked me because we’ve struggled with scoring all year,” said Stuebs. “I was a little amazed at that.”
Kaukauna (3-6, 0-6) slashed West’s lead to 2-1 early in the second half when Oscar Perez scored off a penalty kick.
But junior defender Kyle Thor iced the match for West at the 69:46 mark by heading the ball into the net.
“That’s my first high school goal, so I’m pretty happy,” said Thor, a third-year varsity player. “There were only about 10 minutes left and we needed a score. I should have placed it a little better, but it was right in front of the goal, about six yards in. You have to make those.”
West limited Kaukauna to just six shots on goal.
Goals: Juan Lopez AW (Aydan Leigh) 4:55; Leigh AW (Jack Schneider) 5:34; Oscar Perez K pk 52:02; Kyle Thor AW (Lopez) 69:46. Saves: Jacob Cash K 15, Aidan Fogarty AW 5. Shots on goal: AW 18, K 6.
— Tim Froberg: 920-993-1000, ext. 423, or email@example.com; On Twitter @twfroberg