A DEFIANT performance from teenage goalkeeper Cameron Pyke will go a long way to delivering Warrnambool Rangers their first title in seven years.
Pyke stands in goals as the side chases Ballarat District Soccer Association top-grade success this weekend.
The Rangers take on minor premier Sebastopol Vikings in the grand final at Ballarat's Morshead Park on Saturday .
Pyke and centre backs Alex McCulloch and Nick Van Rooy spearhead a defence which has conceded just 24 goals in 20 matches this season.
The record, the best in the competition, has become a pillar of strength for the Jones Oval side and Pyke can take much of the credit. The 19-year-old Bushfield boy is in career-best form in his second senior season between the posts.
"Last year I was adjusting to the senior game. They're a lot bigger players and a lot more physical," he said. "I wasn't ready for that change.
"This year I know the style of play. I've been able to focus on improving my skills, kicking and handling the ball.
"Mentally I've been able to become stronger.
"If I do happen to make a mistake, I don't beat myself up.
"Last year we were conceding two or three goals a game. This year it's only one. That's where I've stepped up a bit. That helps the strikers. They don't have to score four or five goals a game to win."
Pyke started playing Aussie rules football with North Warrnambool Eagles but five years ago turned his hand to soccer on the advice of mates at Brauer College.
He started as an outfielder before taking the gloves three years ago to fill a goalkeeping void in the under 17s.
A growth spurt gave him a tall, agile frame and helped him become the Rangers' number one shot stopper.
"I like (soccer) because it's a lot more mental," Pyke said.
The Rangers' up-and-down season hit a high at the weekend when they came from 1-0 down to beat Ballarat 2-1 in the preliminary final.
Pyke said the victory gave the side belief it could upstage hot favourite Sebastopol on Saturday night under lights.