Merrill kickers step up their game against solid foes
The Bluejays girls put up their best offensive effort of the season when Wis. Rapids Assumption came to the MARC on Monday.
The Jays took a 2-1 lead early in the first half on a pair of Tracy Pophal scores, but the Royals would tie it up by halftime and score the only goal of the second half for a 3-2 win.
“To almost beat a team who we lost to earlier in the year 6-0 shows great progress,” MHS coach Will Bialecki said. “It was nice to get our first multiple goal game, and I am sure Tracy is relieved that she ended her drought.
“Dawn finished with 10 saves, a lot of which were at very crucial times, and the goals allowed were great shots. I am encouraged by what I saw tonight, but cautious with my optimism because we have been having great games like this and not performing the next time out.”
A dozen minutes into the game, Pophal put an Ashley Millenbah pass between the goalie’s legs, but the Royals quickly knotted it up.
“I was worried that our girls might have gotten a little rattled by that, but we came back three minutes later and Tracy put another goal in from the right side, and it seemed to deflate their defense and goalie,” Bialecki said.
“We went into the second half knowing that we were playing well enough to get the win. Collectively we were playing very solid, and Assumption’s girls were visibly frustrated. With six minutes left in regulation they managed to get a girl the ball in the box and took the lead on a great shot that I thought was going wide. It was tough to lose on a goal so late, but we gave ourselves the opportunity to win.”
Merrill trailed D.C. Everest, the WVC’s 2nd-place team, just 2-0 at intermission of last Tuesday’s road contest.
“We played very strong against the best offense in the Valley,” Bialecki said. “We did a very good job of stepping to the ball, pressuring any play they tried to make.
“The second half we still held up pretty well, but we got tired. They moved the ball very well and kept us from slowing down the game.
“Taylor LaBorde and Tristan Swiechowski played defensive midfield together and made some great plays. Madeline (Klippel) and Claire (Peterson) both played very solid defense as usual. Our midfield also did a great job disrupting the usually perfect passing of Everest. Sydney (Harris) and Ashley especially seemed to be getting on their nerves and wouldn’t let them play the way they wanted to. And Tracy and Izzie (Main) managed to generate some chances against a really fast defense.
“Though we lost 6-0, it was a huge improvement from the last time we faced them.”
Merrill dropped a 10-0 game to D.C.E. on April 12.
Leland came up with 24 saves.
Wausau Newman grabbed a 3-0 lead in the first half of Friday’s contest, then tacked on one more for the victory.
“It was a closer game than the 4-0 final indicated,” Bialecki said. “Our midfield and forwards played much better and generated as many shots on net as we have had all year. We had a lot of chances to score and held a very athletic team pretty well. I was very pleased with how we played, especially in the second half. We had 8 shots, and 6 different shooters. We made some plays from all over our offensive zone and that is encouraging.”
Taylor Hudzinski made 5 saves in her first start.
“She made some very aggressive moves on the ball and wasn’t afraid to go after the play,” Bialecki said. “She showed that she is a worthy back-up goalie.”
Marshfield jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first 10 minutes of Thursday’s home game. Four 2nd-half tallies made it an 8-0 loss.
“It was very disappointing,” Bialecki said. “We got off to a horrible start, although after the initial goals we held them for 50 minutes without scoring.
“It was a really rough game for us. We didn’t attack the ball, our touches were not good and our passing was very much off. It seemed nothing was going our way, and it was probably the most frustrating game we have had all year. I give credit to Marshfield because they have a high-powered offense, but we are capable of playing much better.
Darian Molter scored 4 goals and Emily Wolfe added 3 more. Leland had 12 saves.
The Jays were 0-8-0 in the WVC and 3-13-2 overall. Assumption is at 2-4-1 and 2-7-3. Everest (6-1-1, 11-4-4) and Marshfield 5-4-0, 11-4-2) rate well in the Valley, and Newman (7-01, 9-02) leads the GNC.