By Nick Beversdorf
Merrill soccer had a busy, and frustrating, week as they wrapped up four games – two conference and two non-conference – losing three of those games and tying one. Merrill soccer now sits at 0-9-1 in the Valley Conference and 3-12-3 overall.
On Saturday, Merrill traveled to Eagle River for the Northland Pines Invite, facing off against Northland Pines and Kingsford (MI).
Merrill first played against Northland Pines, tying the game 3-3. Pines got their first goal in the first minute of the game, but Merrill responded with three goals in the first, all from Devon Annis. The first goal was unassisted, the second goal was assisted by Wes McIntyre and the third was assisted by Christian Matson. Pines was able to get another goal in the first half and then squeaked in another goal in the last minute of the game to tie it.
“When you give up a goal in the first and last minute and a half of the game, you’re going to be frustrated,” comments head coach Kyle Hahn. “Apart from those three minutes of the game, our guys controlled the tempo of play and had a real opportunity to get a win off a solid Northland Pines team. Unfortunately for us, they found a way to make us pay. Devon Annis had the hot foot again with a hat trick in the first half.”
Merrill had 17 shots on goal compared to Pines’ 10 and Keeper Mason Gebert had eight saves compared to Pines’ 14.
The Bluejays fared worse during the second game of the day against Kingsford, losing 4-2. Again, most of the scoring occurred in the first half with Kingsford getting two crucial goals in the first 10 minutes. Merrill scored two goals thereafter, both from Austin Zettler. On was from a penalty kick and the other was off an assist from Annis.
Kingsford got another goal before the first half closed and got another goal in the second half to win the game.
Merrill had seven shots on goal compared to Kingsford’s 13 and keeper Cody Kleinschmidt had nine saves compared to Kingsford’s five.
“You could tell our guys were a bit tired from the first game,” adds Hahn. “We had a 30-minute break between games and had to try and get the legs moving again right away. Unfortunately, we gave up a couple of soft goals in the opening 10 minutes of the game that made the difference. Mason had to come out of goal shortly after due to lingering back pain and soreness from the first game, but Cody Kleinschmidt did a good job of coming in and keeping us in the game.
“Austin Zettler got us back on level terms with a well-taken penalty and an excellent finish off a beautiful through ball from Devon Annis. However, Kingsford seemed to have a little bit more in the tank and finished off the game by scoring two more goals. It’s hard to play back-to-back games and I give our guys credit for fighting through the heavy legs and soreness to play with composure on the ball and hang with a well-drilled Kingsford team.”
Shutout to Marshfield, West
On Thursday (Oct. 6), Marshfield defeated Merrill in a 9-0 shutout. Marshfield consistently scored throughout the game, although Merrill did manage to prevent the mercy rule.
Merrill had just three shots on goal compared to Marshfield’s 23 and keeper Gebert had 14 saves compared to Marshfield’s three.
“On a night like this, it’s hard to find positives that can be taken from the game,” adds Hahn. “However, our guys found a way to keep them out of the net to prevent a 10-0 mercy rule. Most, if not all, of their goals came from fixable mistakes that we’ve been working on all season and will continue to work on until the very end.”
On Tuesday (Oct. 4), Merrill fell to Wausau West in a much closer 2-0 game. West scored both of their goals in the first 10 minutes, but Merrill snapped to it afterwards and held good possession for the rest of the game, although couldn’t quite land the ball in West’s net.
Merrill had three shots on goal compared to West’s nine and keeper Gebert had seven saves compared to West’s three.
“We had a bit of trouble settling into this game at the start, but 15 minutes in our guys seemed to find their footing. West’s first goal was soft and we had to help them on the second one by putting it in our own net. Aside from the mental and defensive mistakes in the beginning of the game, we improved tremendously from the first time we played them. We were able to move the ball more efficiently and held a good amount of possession throughout the game.”
The Merrill High School soccer program also held their KFC/Taco Bell fundraiser last Friday. Ten percent of all the days proceeds went towards the program-upwards of $500.
“On behalf of the varsity and JV boys’ soccer teams and booster club, I would like to thank everyone who came out to KFC/Taco Bell last Friday to support the program,” Hahn said. “I would also like to extend a sincere and heartfelt thank you to Doug Smith for his extreme generosity in allowing us to host this night and donating funds from the day’s sales back to the program. His commitment to the Merrill soccer programs is unparalleled and continues to provide us with the support and encouragement needed to compete year after year.”
Merrill soccer will face off against SPASH on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at SPASH and then they will wrap up the conference season with a home game on Thursday against WI Rapids-Lincoln at 6 p.m. Regional play will start on Tuesday, Oct. 18.