NICO SOARS AS THE WINGS OUTPACE THE RUNNERS
He swooped into Santa Ana, New Mexico and simply attacked his prey. Forward Nico put the Wings on top Sunday during their match against the New Mexico Runners with a double hat-trick. Yes, you read that correctly. A double hat-trick.
"It was a day to remember," said Nico. "I was lucky to have these chances in one game and put them in the net."
Ever the perfectionist, Nico still felt he could have done better.
"I missed a shoot-out and hit the post four times. But, I'm glad I could score when I had the opportunities and help the Wings."
Coach Roger Downing said Nico and the rest of the Wings approached the game against the Runners with a different attitude.
"The last game was a great team effort. We went in with a loose attitude to have fun and play hard and enjoy playing with each other," said Downing.
And that light-hearted game play was evident in both the celebrations after each goal - especially after one from Nico. Wings staffer Johnny Freedom was on the sidelines watching the game and enjoying a hamburger and fries. As he celebrated a goal, Nico spotted Freedom and made a beeline for him, chomping down on the burger before jogging off to high-five his team mates.
The fun moment has gone viral. https://www.facebook.com/WichitaWingsSoccer/videos/562750564587592/
But it wasn't all laughs - the Wings did the hard work, too. In addition to Nico's double hat-trick he had one assist and eight other players had a hand in that 15-5 score:
Kieran Laking - 1 goal
Alex Moseley - 1 goal, 1 assist
Matt Sherrod - 1 goal
Bryan Perez - 2 assists
Kevin Ten Eyck - 1 goal, 1 assist
David Lucio - 2 goals, 1 assist
Lucas Sousa - 2 goals, 1 assist
Colin Lawter - 1 goal
The game Sunday was a relief for the team after the heartbreaker in Amarillo on Saturday night.
"Dropping a close one in Amarillo on Saturday was disappointing," said owner Blake Shumaker."The team knew we missed a chance to take that match and just didn’t come out with the intensity and quality we expect as Wichita Wings."
In the end, Amarillo's goalkeeper was the difference. In the New Mexico game, it was evident that not only the offense was unstoppable - but goalkeeper Aaron Parrott was making some simply spectacular saves. He ended the night with 13 of them, as well as some great defensive moves out of the box.
The New Mexico Runners, who still sit in sixth place, were gunning for the Wings and jockeying for a playoff position - as only the top four teams in the league will play in the April championship weekend, hosted in Wichita by the Wings. The Runners came into the game with a goals-for average of +8.6 and a goals differential of -2. Going into this weekend, Wings have a goals-for average of +9.2 and a goals differential of +40 which took them into the road trip in a good place.
The Wings now sit with a goals-for average of 9.4 and a phenomenal goal differential of +48. They finish the weekend with a playoff berth secured and just that much closer to also locking down second place in the league.
"In the end, we feel like it was a successful weekend," said Shumaker. "Our goal was to go on the road and qualify for the playoffs and we just did that with a win in New Mexico."
But, there is still work to be done. A two-game road trip to Colorado is on-deck for next weekend.
"We need to take care of business next week to lock up the two-seed up," said Downing.
The fledgling team is looking forward to their upcoming road trip to Colorado, but players and staff can't help but anticipate coming home to Hartman Arena and bringing the playoffs to the fans in early April. Orange Army, they are counting on you as their sixth attacker.
"It’s bigger than a home field advantage. We know the best indoor fans are in Wichita and our players are extremely excited to get to provide those meaningful championship games at Hartman Arena," said Shumaker.
Like this past weekend, the next few games will leave the men in orange without their sixth attacker - the Orange Army. Shumaker is confident that the extended slate of away games will be only positive for the 40th anniversary season and hopes that fans will keep tabs on the team during their road trip.
Tickets go on sale March 3rd for the championship weekend and can be purchased at the Hartman Arena Box Office or via Ticketmaster online.