A glimpse at the Max Preps website has the Mingus Union girls soccer team at 0-4 to start the season, but long-time head coach Buddy Rhodes has a simple answer for that, and it is hard to refute him.
"See, your fallacy here is saying its an 0-4 start," Rhodes said. "Tournaments don't count. Tournaments don't count for anything. Right now we're 0-1 (aia365.com agrees with Rhodes), could end up 0-2. For a young team, we're gauging ourselves towards the end of January, is what we're tempting to do."
Obviously Rhodes knows what he is doing. He has built the Marauders into a perennial contender, with the girls missing out on a state championship, 1-0 to Campo Verde, at the end of the 2012-13 season.
It is much like the same philosophy that Mingus Union softball head coach John Brown employs. Get the team into the big tournaments, have exposure facing the top teams in Arizona, and when it comes time for conference, the girls will be able to handle it much better. Case in point, Arcadia High School.
The Titans are a senior heavy team with a wealth of experience. According to Rhodes, no other team on the Marauders' schedule will be tougher than the teams they will face to open the season, Arcadia and Prescott, and to close the season, Coconino and Bradshaw Mountain.
"We were set up just perfect because our first two games are Arcadia and Prescott, two quality Division-II schools, and our last two games are against two Division-II schools," Rhodes said. "So at the beginning of the season and the end of the season we should be playing good teams."
Knowing the competition his team was facing, Rhodes' expectations in the win/loss column were tempered. Would it have been nice to pick up a win or two over Division-II's Kellis, Sunrise Mountain or Arcadia High Schools? Yes, Rhodes said. But at the same time, the tournament gave the Marauders a chance to work on something more important at this point in the season.
"We knew full well what we were getting into when we went down there," Rhodes said. "You don't go play up a couple of divisions and anticipate you're going to win. Where I have four seniors, they've got 15 seniors. Where I have four juniors, they've got that many. Its not that you anticipate you're going to go down there and beat those teams."
They were able to work on adjust personnel details. From moving girls around to trying new defensive schemes, that was the main goal of the tournament.
Speaking of defense, coming into the season, the defense was the big question mark for the Marauders. That is where graduation affected them the most, so that was the biggest question mark. Rhodes had that question answered with adjustments made in the match-up with Arcadia.
"We replaced the majority of our defense this year," Rhodes said. "We saw where we were weak and we adjusted our formation, hopefully to handle that. That's why we were able to take an Arcadia to a 0-0 at the end of regulation, where without that adjustment, Sunrise Mountain beat us 2-0 at the end of the half, 3-1 at the end of the game. So the tournament paid off, it worked good for us. I would be very surprised if we see a team ... we wont see any teams better than Arcadia in our division, nor will we see any teams better than some of the other teams we saw down there."
The Titans edged Mingus Union 1-0, but the go-ahead goal was not scored until overtime. The defensive adjustments the girls made in the tournament paid off. Arcadia has one win and a tie against Division-I competition, so they are no joke.
"It was 0-0 at the end of regulation and they got one good break on us and scored on us," Rhodes said. "The girls really, really, on a defensive nature, played over their head.
"Arcadia is being touted as one of the better Division-II teams in the state this year. They've got nine returning starters and 11 seniors off of a team that was in the quarterfinals of Division-II last year. They're a quality team, and I was really excited to come out [and play them]. Obviously I would have like the draw, but we were very excited to come out of that game with that result."
While the loss may sting initially, the girls are only 0-1, despite what a website says. All of this is with the same goal as always, getting ready for the post season.
"We're going to do the same thing over Christmas break," Rhodes said. "We're playing in the showcase and we play Desert Mountain and Willow Canyon, both very strong teams, upper division teams."