Mehlville soccer coach earns 100th victory

Panthers defeat Eureka 3-0

By ROBERT CHALUPNY

The Mehlville Senior High School boys’ soccer team snapped a frustrating five-game losing streak last week, giving their head coach his 100th win in the 3-0 victory over the Eureka Wildcats.

Panthers head coach Tom Harper told the Call he was glad to get the “monkey” off his back and that the victory speaks volumes for the Mehlville program.

“It’s huge for all of us really,” he said. “It’s been kind of a monkey on our back and the last couple weeks we’ve been on that five-game skid … When you play teams like that, its difficult anyway, but I think the kids felt the pressure of it a little more than I did.”

The Panthers had lost five in a row to Northwest, Oakville, Rock Bridge, Marquette and Lafayette.

“You could tell they were really scratching and digging to get that one out of the way, but it happened nonetheless and we are looking forward to districts now,” Harper said. “… It’s just one of those things. It’s a good accomplishment for us, but it defines the program for what it’s worth now. It’s not just me. I can go back seven years of kids that helped me get this far. So it’s been fun.”

Aris Nukic, the Panthers’ leading scorer, dominated the scoring in the Oct. 25 game with a hat trick in the win and said was happy to do his part to help his coach. Nukic has been in the top five in the state all season and has held the No. 1 spot several times. He currently holds the No. 2 spot.

“I’m proud to be a part of his 100th win,” Nukic told the Call.

Harper said he was just glad to get back to winning and is focused on getting through districts and looking to have some playoff success.

“It was a little bit slow. It’s one of those things where you just got to keep digging,” Harper said of the contest. “We’ve been on them the last couple of weeks with the five one-goal losses to those elite teams we’ve been playing.

“You’ve got to stick with it. You’ve got to stick with the program and stick with the concept and sometimes we looked a little lost … but when you got a guy that can do the kind of things that Aris can do … the kid just does amazing things with the ball and it’s one of those things. It’s an amazing feat for him.

Harper continued, “He set the scoring record here at the school this year and like I said, I’ve got a lot of players like him and when they step up, it’s a pretty amazing thing to watch.”

Nukic echoed his coach, saying when the Panthers are on, they can beat anyone.

“Our chemistry is pretty good. Sometimes we play a little bit to selfish, but when we don’t play selfish we are really deadly,” he said. “I think teams are pretty much scared of us when we are at the top of our game, but when we are at the top I think we are a very scary team to play against.”

The Panthers went on to beat Webster Groves in the last regular season game 3-2 and then took out Fox in the first round of districts 6-1.

The Panthers were scheduled to face Oakville Tuesday night — after the Call went to press.