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Holden Kendrick scored the game's only goal in a 1-0 Republic win on the road at Willard.

Soccer Tigers Show “A Lot of Grit” in Win at Willard

The gritty Tiger defense was at it again Tuesday night, posting a shutout at Willard to pick up Republic’s first Central Ozark Conference win of the season. Republic got a first-half goal from Holden Kendrick and made it hold up.

The Tigers are 2-2 to start the season, despite losing 11 seniors to graduation and opening with a difficult stretch of games against strong opponents. They’ve allowed only four goals in four games, and their defense has given them an opportunity to win every night.

“I personally think the defense is better than what I expected,” said coach Kevin Hauck. “They’ve been doing a great job and I think that we’re only just going to continue to get stronger.”

Hauck credits some adjustments made after the preseason jamboree that strengthened the defense, moving Jackson McGuire back into a defender’s role. “I talked to him and he was really excited to give it a go,” Hauck said.

The Tigers also made adjustments to the offense Tuesday, moving forwards Marco Donjuan and Jabali Wanekya to the wings and moving Brendon Roberts and Will Fronabarger forward. Even though it didn’t result in more scoring, Hauck said he thought his team moved the ball better and produced better scoring opportunities.

Overall, though, Hauck is impressed with his team’s character as it continues to win with defensive effort while the offense seeks its rhythm.

“I think winning by defense shows a lot of grit,” Hauck said. “It shows a lot of heart and a lot of battle, because going into each game, you know that you’re going to … have to play it strong. You have to be mentally tough for it, and I think this team is starting to show it, and I’m really proud of them.”

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