The Bluejay boys soccer team put together an excellent season this year and hoped to extend its success well into the post-season. But sixth-seeded Merrill lost a 4-2 opener at #3-seed Ashwaubenon under the lights on Thursday.
“It was hard at the end to lose, but it’s part of the game,” MHS coach Luis Mendoza said. “We didn’t know much about them. We knew we could come out with a win if we played as a team.
“They came out stronger and kept passing the ball. Their defense was solid and their keeper made several good saves.”
The Jaguars held a 2-0 lead at halftime, and extended their lead to a serious deficit of 3-0 early in the second half.
But the Bluejays never wavered, battling back to within 3-2 with tallies from Brian Root and Austin Zettler. Ty Lorbiecki picked up a rebound and sent a cross across the goal mouth where Root headed it home from the far post in the 57th minute. Then Zettler emerged from a scramble at the 18 and put his shot home in the 78th minute.
Merrill kept up the pressure, but Ashwaubenon matched it, finally netting another goal for the 4-2 win late in the second 45-minute half.
“Our guys kept working hard to get another goal, but they kept playing hard on defense and pushing up to get more goals,” Mendoza said. “They finally got one.”
Ashwaubenon fell 2-1 on Saturday to #2-seed Pulaski, who will face Marshfield on Thursday in the regional final. The sectional final will be played on Saturday.
The Bluejays ended up in sixth place in the Valley with a 3-9 record that belied the strength of their play. They dropped several other games by two scores or fewer to top teams in the conference, including two one-goal games in the final week.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Mendoza said. “They did amazing. The second half of the season, we came out stronger and played as a team, and we were pretty solid on defense. We were doing great things.
“We’re going to have a pretty good team. We had a lot of freshmen this year. Our sophomores and juniors showed a lot of potential. So we’re definitely excited for next year.”