West Delaware opened the 2021 soccer season playing three strong opponents and, while still looking for the first goal and the first win of the young campaign, coach Matt Knutson saw growth from his team.

First-year program Clayton Ridge jumped to a 5-0 halftime lead on the way to an 8-0 win over the Hawks in the season opener in Manchester, April 5.

Knutson knew it was going to be an uphill battle with his inexperienced team to start the year.

“The first game against Clayton Ridge was an eye-opener for the majority of the team that has never played high school soccer before,” Knutson said. “They didn’t realize how fast-paced the game was and couldn’t handle the superior size and speed of the opponent.”

Things didn’t get any easier when West Delaware opened WaMaC Conference play, as a tough Vinton-Shellsburg team was next on the schedule in a quick turnaround for the Hawks, April 6, and the Vikings took a 14-0 win in Vinton.

“Vinton-Shellsburg has a very strong team and mercy-ruled us in the first half,” said Knutson. “Our team doesn’t have the know-how of the game to understand the strategy as well as other teams. I’m trying to build up their fundamentals and ease them into some of the tactical aspects of the game so it isn’t information overload.”

Positive growth was evident April 9 when the Hawks faced Center Point-Urbana in their third contest of the week, as they played a competitive first half before dropping a 9-0 decision to the Stormin’ Pointers.

“There was evidence of the boys starting to comprehend and pick up some of the strategy against CPU,” Knutson said. “We held them to 2-0 at halftime and we were playing with confidence. We were able to move the ball upfield and have some semblance of an attack during the first half.

“After halftime, we felt the weakness in our lack of numbers and they simply overpowered us with their depth.”