SYCAMORE – Standards have changed for the DeKalb boys soccer team.
The Barbs lost six of seven nonconference games last year before making a run to the Northern Illinois Big 12 East Division championship.
This season, DeKalb lost just one match in nonconference play, but after its 4-0 win over Sycamore on Tuesday, the Barbs (4-1-4, 2-0-1 NI Big 12 East) still raved about the improvement they’ve made in their first three games of the conference season.
“We played a better style. We usually rush our style, but today we kept it calm,” said midfielder Sean Woodford, who assited on three goals in Tuesday’s win. “We have better communication, we’re a lot better at getting wide, we’ve been smarter with our plays.”
That’s the progression Brent McIntosh expected this season with a more technically sound team.
But after shutting out their first three conference opponents, the Barbs’ biggest improvement has come defensively.
“Our focus is, can we defend and can we outwork the other team, and that’s how we’re measuring our success right now,” McIntosh said. “This is a completely different team and it’s a completely different mindset than last year’s squad. I think we’re just a little bit more comfortable technically.”
Sycamore (2-9-1, 0-3 NI Big 12) did most of the defending Tuesday.
DeKalb opened the scoring in the second minute, when Woodford blew past his defender on the right side of the field and found Trevor Freeland, whose shot hit the lower corner.
The Spartans rarely held possession in DeKalb’s attacking third, but they held DeKalb to that lone goal until Zack Dixson-Smith scored off of another cross from Woodford.
“They certainly could have had one or two more,” Sycamore coach Dave Lichamer said. “Credit to my defense for throwing around their bodies and really taking the brunt of a lot of really hard shots and doing their best to keep it out of our box.”
The Barbs broke through in the last ten minutes of the game, when Freeland scored again off yet another cross from Woodford. Logan Brown finished off the scoring with six minutes left.
“Technically, we’re getting better every day,” Hicks said. “Everyone’s coming together from where they were over the summer.”
The Barbs play Rochelle today, and McIntosh is getting ready for the stretch run.
Hicks, DeKalb’s No. 1 goalkeeper, has alternated between goalkeeper and playing the field this season. Starting Wednesday, he’ll shift mainly to goalkeeper.
After Rochelle, the Barbs will play conference contenders Morris and Kaneland.
“We’ve got some very tough conference games coming up against Rochelle, Morris and Kaneland,” McIntosh said. “That’s a very tough stretch of games for us and we’re going to need to be very tough defensively.”