The Bluejays may have battled injury and inexperience at times in 2014, but last week proved they aren’t going down without a fight. Merrill gamely hung with D.C. Everest and Marshfield in Valley play last week, then took it up another notch to forge a second-place finish in Saturday’s six-team Green Bay East Invite.
The Jays worked a 1-1 tie with Gibraltar, then topped G.B. Southwest 1-0 in the second game to reach Saturday’s final. They fell 4-0 to West Bend West to finish second.
“We had a lot of fun,” MHS coach Luis Mendoza said. “We started a little slow but in our second game we did a lot better and scored right at the end to give us the win. Overall it was a good weekend.”
The invite was played on Homecoming day, but the kids sought more competition.
“We asked them if they wanted to go to the tourney or Homecoming and everybody decided they wanted to go to the tourney,” Mendoza said.
Taylor Hipke netted the winning goal in the second game off a second-half assist from Keenan Stellingworth.
Both teams scored in the first half of the Gibraltar tie, with Merrill’s Brian Root finishing an unassisted tally.
West Bend West tallied all of its goals in the first half of the final.
No goal-keeping stats were available.
The Evergreens had mercy-ruled Merrill 10-0 back on Aug. 28, but MHS gave up solo goals to four different players in the first half of Tuesday’s game before shutting them down in the second half.
“We did a lot better and we were missing Brian and Riley Sutton,” Medoza said. “It’s always good to improve against teams. We played really well and our keeper (Trent Rathke) had some pretty good saves.”
Rathke stopped six shots, while Merrill put one of three shots on goal.
The Jays held Marshfield – at 4-4-1 tied for fourth but just three points out of first in the tight Valley – to just two first-half goals in Thursday’s 6-1 loss.
“We pushed a little bit more at the end of the first half,” Mendoza said. “It wasn’t a good game, to be honest, but we got our first Valley goal so we were excited about that.”
Root cut the lead to 2-1 in the 46th minute, where it stayed until the 65th minute. Ben Medley made 10 saves. Four of the seven MHS shots were on goal.
Merrill was 4-12-3 overall and 0-8 in the WVC heading into Tuesday’s action.