Merrill kickers ride the roller-coaster

The Bluejay soccer team explored both extremes of solid play last week. Merrill struggled in Tuesday’s 3-0 home loss to D.C. Everest, then pushed Marshfield in a 1-0 road defeat on Thursday.
“Against Everest we did not play with much discipline,” MHS coach Doug Smith said. “We were playing smear the ball and sometimes had 2-3 guys going after the same ball. It’s amazing how we turned it around with one quality practice. Marshfield was a completely different game.”
Taking injuries and player tendencies into account, Merrill switched from its 4-4-2 alignment to a 3-5-2 with Greg Boyce and Logan Brunett as defensive midfielders.
“We left David Pophal alone in the center and moved Andreas (Lodoen) to forward,” Smith said. “Things really gelled. We had several through-balls, and several hard shots on goal. Their keeper made several good saves and Andreas had one shot from the left side off the cross-bar. Our bright spots were Greg, Logan and Andreas.
“It was a frustrating loss because we could have taken that one. Nonetheless, it generated a lot of excitement on the team because they had played so well.”
Marshfield scored the only goal of the game 22 minutes into the firs half. The Tigers out-shot Merrill 11-6, with all of the MHS shots coming after halftime.
“They still beat us on paper, but the shots we had were better quality than their shots,” Smith said.
The Jays hope to step it up and grab a WVC win.
“No team is clearly dominating,” Smith said. “Wausau East is tied for first and nobody saw that coming. Wausau West beat SPASH in double overtime. Nobody saw that coming. There’s some real parity in the conference and that plays into our hands.”
Everest onset
The two teams battled to a scoreless tie for 38 minutes, before D.C.E. tallied a goal with 1:45 left in the half.
The Evergreens made it 2-0 in the third minute of the second half and bumped it to 3-0 four minutes later.
“Then we woke up and started playing better, but it was a little too late,” Smith said. “Our inexperience really showed. We’re still moving kids around on the field to figure out where they will help us the most and they just dissected us.
“Quite honestly it was the most frustrating game of the season.”
Everest finished with a 9-2 edge in shots on goal and a 12-3 margin in corner kicks. Merrill keeper Austin Gartmann had the six saves.

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