By Nick Beversdorf
It was not a bad start to the season for varsity soccer, with the Merrill kickers walking away with a 2-0 win over Pacelli this past Friday. Although Merrill struggled to score any goals the first half, a solid Merrill defense prevented any and all goals, giving the Merrill offense the opportunities to score in the second half.
The first half saw no goals and a few close calls for the Merrill defense, but goalie Mason Gebert made many great saves.
“It was evident that we had the upper hand for most of the game,” comments head coach Kyle Hahn. “I felt we were a little unlucky not to get a goal in the first half. There were certainly opportunities, we just weren’t able to capitalize. Pacelli wanted to play a physical game which made it a little tough to get into a rhythm, but our guys kept circulating the ball and working hard off the ball, as well. There was a period of five minutes at the end of the first half where we came under some pressure.
“Credit to our guys though for staying composed and keeping the ball out of the net. Our back four diamond of Robert Kracht, Mitchell Jaeger, Brendan Root, and Taylor Hipke never looked panicked at any point during the game and played a key role in starting our attacks throughout the game. Mason Gebert made his mark on the game by coming up with a couple of big saves in his first career varsity start. There was one in particular where the shot was heading for his upper left corner and he did a fantastic job of making a full-stretch, diving save. It’s something you’d expect to see on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays of the day.”
The second half went on until around the 74-minute mark when Zach Weix made his way down the left side of the field and put a great cross into the box for Hunter Wallace to nod home (at 74:18) for his first career varsity goal. About eight minutes later Joe Ladewig went on a fantastic run down the left wing, blowing past a few defenders on his way to goal and finished off the play with a shot into the top shelf of the net at 82:42, giving a confidence boost to the rest of the team.
Merrill had two goals, 17 shots on goal and 13 saves courtesy of Gebert.
“I’m really proud of the team tonight,” adds Hahn. “We knew coming into the game that we would be facing a defensively sound Pacelli team that would be hard to break down. However, our guys found a way to get the result. From the first whistle to the final horn, we had guys putting in some serious shifts. Given that it’s early in the season, fitness was always going to be tested. It gave us an opportunity to get a good look at our role players and assess our team’s overall versatility. Having guys that can play multiple roles and slot in up top, in the midfield, on the left or right will be a huge asset for us this year.”
Merrill varsity soccer will play tonight at 7 p.m. against Antigo at Jay Stadium.