West ends MHS season early

The Bluejay boys soccer season ended on a decidedly down note after last Tuesday’s 10-0 mercy rule loss to #3 seed Wausau West in the WIAA regional road game.
The 14th-seeded Jays had lost by 9-0 scores three times in a 7-17-1 season, but had never reached the 10-0 cut-off for early ending of a contest until Tuesday.
“It was disappointing, obviously,” MHS coach Doug Smith said. “We tried a few things, and moved some kids around. We didn’t have anything to lose, so to speak.”
Merrill had dropped a 9-0 game to West just the previous Thursday, and was looking for a way to cut into that margin.
The likely top candidate for Valley POY, Elliot Markwardt, caused major early difficulties. He netted goals in the 2nd, 11th and 31st minutes and set up a score by Kou Muoa in the 34th minute to give the Warriors a 4-0 lead at halftime.
“Their rock star guy, Markwardt, is just devastating,” Smith said. “We tried to man up Greg Boyce on him to free up (center mid) David (Pophal), and Greg couldn’t keep up, so late in the first half we put David back on him. Markwardt didn’t figure in any of the second-half scoring.”
Smith had devised a semi-successful plan of having Pophal shadow Markwardt in previous games, but felt Merrill’s offense suffered in the process, thus the Boyce experiment.
Smith did highlight the play of Bryce Litschauer.
“Bryce gave 110% the whole game,” he said. “I can put him in multiple places on the field, and he will excel at any one and he won’t goof around.”
Winning was a difficult proposition trailing 4-0 to West-the Valley’s runner-up team-but Smith was surprised by the second half performance. West tallied goals in the 41st, 46th, 48th, 50th, 55th and 57th minutes. Markwardt (3 g, 2 a), Louis Lee (2 g, 1 a) and Dustin Buchberger (2 g) paced a crew of nine players that figured in scoring.
“We totally caved in the second half,” he said. “We gave up six goals in 15 minutes. It was the same old story of we didn’t mark up. Guys were running free as a bird out there. You can’t play defense if your man is free.
“The kids were trying. They were running around like crazy. They just weren’t being smart. The good thing is this is a young team. A couple other conference teams are young teams, but all the powerhouses-SPASH, East, West-are senior-dominated teams. There will be an opportunity for us next year.”
The Jays will need to find a goalie since they are losing both Austin Gartmann and Ben Riehle. The other two varsity seniors are Boyce and Josh Berton.
“It was a rebuilding year,” Smith said. “But at the same time we came up with seven wins and a tie. Last year we only had 4 wins, so we went up in the win column with a younger team.
“It was a rollercoaster year. At times we played brilliant and at others we just didn’t.”
The Warriors-now 17-5-0 overall after a 9-3 WVC season-pulled out a 4-0 win over Eau Claire North on Thursday. On Thursday, they will visit #2 seed Chippewa Falls, a 2-1 winner over #7 New Richmond.

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