FARGO — The Fargo Davies boys soccer team entered this season with confidence, despite an early exit from last year’s state tournament — a rare occurrence for the Eagles in recent years.
But with one regular-season contest remaining this fall, they’ve left no doubt that they had every right to be.
Those preseason beliefs were reinforced when the Eagles outscored their opponents 14-2 on their way to a 4-0 start. Davies (12-0-2, 11-0-2 EDC) remains the lone unbeaten team in the Eastern Dakota Conference.
“We set some goals at the start of the year,” junior midfielder Patrick Lawrence said. “One of those was to be undefeated, and we still have that intact… We had some other goals, too, like winning the state tournament and being No. 1 in the EDC, which we just clinched (Tuesday) night. We’re just checking off boxes.”
Davies scored a 2-2 tie with Grand Forks Red River (9-5-2, 9-2-2 EDC) on Tuesday to lock up the No. 1 seed in the East Region. With the draw, the Eagles nabbed a six-point advantage over Red River, which is second in conference standings, as well as the top seed for the boys soccer state tournament Oct. 7-9 in Jamestown.
“We lost a lot of key pieces last year but we also had guys who were capable of stepping up and are really stepping up this year,” said Lawrence, Davies’ leading goal scorer. “It’s just that next man up mentality.”
That mentality has taken the tight-knit Eagles, who haven’t given up more than two goals in a game this season, far. Davies has outscored opponents 36-10 in 14 games and posted six shutouts, including a stretch of four a row. Junior goalkeeper Esteban Nunez, who has 46 saves this season, shared all the credit with his teammates for the clean sheets.
“It starts up front with our attackers. The way they press the ball; it’s really working for us,” Nunez said. “And obviously the midfield is working hard for us, and the back four has been incredible. The (46) saves are comparatively pretty low, and that just shows how well the defense has been playing.”
The team’s bond off the field has reflected in their performances on the pitch. Lawrence, who has eight goals and three assists this year, said chemistry is the winning ingredient this season for Davies, which went 8-6-1 last year and lost to Bismarck High in the state quarterfinals.
“You look at our stats and it's just incredible at what we're doing both defensively and offensively,” Nunez said. “It's just that team chemistry showing through. We’ve got talent and we’ve had talent in the past, but this year it’s really come together as a team.”
“We want to work for each other and we want to win for each other,” Lawrence added.
The Eagles haven’t had to play from behind a lot this fall, but when they’ve had to, they’ve shown they’re resilient enough to overcome a deficit.
“We never give up. (Tuesday) after Red River scored the first goal, we were so mad,” senior forward Bill Mukundiyese said. “We want to keep going. We think we’re going to win the game, even if we’re losing or down like three goals — we feel that we’re gonna come back.”
After jumping out to a strong start, the Eagles had a couple hiccups in the middle of the season, Nunez said. They weren’t satisfied with their performance in Tuesday’s tie against Red River, either. But through any lulls, the confidence the Davies players have in each other has never wavered.
“We believe in ourselves so much,” said Mukundiyese, who has five goals and three assists this season to help pace Davies’ attack.
Mukundiyese, Nunez and Lawrence also credited their coaches for putting them in the best position to succeed. Davies head coach Ian Costello led the Eagles to three consecutive state championship appearances from 2017 to 2019.
Davies is one game away from an unbeaten regular season after Thursday’s 3-2 win over Fargo Shanley (4-7-5, 4-5-4 EDC), though the Eagles aren’t playing with pressure to maintain the streak. As the postseason draws closer, the Eagles are approaching it with the same outlook they had at the start of the year — with absolute confidence in themselves.
“We are looking over our shoulders and we see Red River is nipping at our heels and Sheyenne as well. And out West, Minot is doing really well,” Nunez said. “But even with all those great teams, we still see ourselves as a top dog and we like having that target on our back. We’ve had it all season and we’re going to continue to defend that.”