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Wendt plays big part in Air Force Academy's success

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John Wendt is a Sylvania Northview graduate who plays men's soccer as the U.S. Air Force Academy.

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COLORADO SPRINGS — The Air Force Academy men’s soccer team is ranked No. 12 in the country this season, and a big reason for that ranking is the play of senior goalkeeper John Wendt.

The Northview High School product has posted a 0.65 goals-against average and .800 save percentage in the regular season to rank among the top goalies in Division I, helping the Falcons race to a 14-1-3 record. Those numbers helped him earn first-team all-league honors in the Western Athletic Conference, where the Falcons completed the season in first place with an 8-0-2 mark.

RELATED: Northview grad Wendt deals with sky high expectations

The team begins conference tournament play Friday before a likely NCAA tournament bid. Wendt — an All-Ohio choice in Division I as a senior at Northview — said the seeds for this season’s success were sown last season, when his team lost to Nevada, Las Vegas in the WAC championship game.

“That game was a heartbreaker,” Wendt said in a phone interview. “After that game, those of us who are seniors this year got together and said, ‘We’ve got to get back here.’

“That defeat was absolutely crushing. … We got a taste of success, and this year we wanted to take a whole bite.”

But this season may even exceed those expectations. Wendt, a second-team All-WAC pick as a junior last season, said simply working to win this year’s league title has blossomed into an unforgettable senior year.

“Rankings never crossed our minds,” he said. “We asked ourselves, ‘What do we have to do to win the WAC regular-season title, then win the WAC tournament?’

“That was our focus. With our success in reaching those goals, a ranking came from it.”

Since suffering a 1-0 loss at Furman on Sept. 3, the Falcons have not been beaten in 14 straight games, including victories in the last five games heading into the WAC tournament.

The Falcons, as the tournament’s top seed, will face the winner of the quarterfinal contest between No. 4 seed San Jose State and No. 5 Texas, Rio Grande Valley in the semifinals Friday at UNLV.

Wendt is one of the team’s captains, and coach Doug Hill said his senior goalkeeper has played a huge role in the team’s success.

“Not only is he a great player, he’s a great leader of the team,” Hill said of Wendt in a phone interview. “He commands a good presence back there, but he also dominates the box.

“He’s gotten stronger, that’s the No. 1 thing. … He has grown, and matured, and come into his own.”

Wendt said his role as team captain, as well as having a young defensive corps in front of him, has caused him to be more assertive this season.

“Last year we had a senior backline that had all been starters for three years, so it was easy for me to let them take charge,” Wendt said. “This year I’ve had to talk more and get off my line more, so I can help them and make things easier on them.”

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