What a difference a year makes.
The Eastview boys' soccer team trudged through a 6-10-2 season last year, failing to accomplish any of its goals in what head coach Scott Gustafson called one of the most difficult years in the program's history.
At 9-0-1 through Tuesday, the Lightning has gotten off to such a hot start in 2011 that the coaches association shot it up to the Class 2A, No. 1 ranking last Sunday. Wins over two ranked Lake Conference rivals, Eagan and Bloomington Jefferson, vaulted Eastview to the top.
"The boys were pretty excited about that," said Gustafson, who has been with the program since the school opened.
Last season the Lightning went five consecutive games without scoring a goal. Now, through the midway point of their 2011 campaign, it has already surpassed 2010's goals total.
The game-changer is junior Mathew Gweh, who grew up playing in Liberia and transferred from Como Park before the start of last year.
The Minnesota State High School League deemed him ineligible for his sophomore year, so the forward sat out the season.
Through Tuesday, Gweh had 15 goals and four assists, more than enough to lead what is arguably the state's toughest conference.
"I'm probably biased, but I think he's the most dangerous player in the state of Minnesota, by far," Gustafson said. "I have yet to see a player that can do the things that he can offensively."
Quick feet, shifty ball control and a lethal shot have given Gweh two four-goal games already. With the team down 2-1, he scored a hat trick in the second half against Bloomington Kennedy. He scored both goals against Bloomington Jefferson.
"I don't like to lose," said Gweh, who is about 5 feet tall. "That's why I always play hard. Get the win."
This team's strength lies in its offense behind not only Gweh but its midfield's ability to possess and move the ball. Junior Mike Bonderud links up the defense and the midfield.
"He's your lunch-pail guy in the middle of the pitch that does everything for you," Gustafson said.
Captain and midfielder Brennan Espinda Banick has four goals and six assists. Seniors Joe Karam and Kevin Harrow, along with Banick, have been on the varsity squad since they were sophomores.
Junior Sam Ruelas and sophomore Treston Kederer make up a stellar goalkeeper combination. Both are recognized as the best at their position in their respective classes, and both were selected to the Olympic Development Program's region team.
Eastview, which has never been to the state tournament, is in a section filled with tough conference rivals. But if last week was any indicator, this team might be ready to break through.
"Last week was just a huge week for us," Banick said. "I think we believe now that we can compete with the top teams in the state and we can make a run to the state tournament."