Bluejay soccer hangs with conference leaders
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, the Merrill soccer team held tight with the Wisconsin Valley Conference leading Wausau West Warriors. After falling by a score of 5-0 to the Warriors early in the season, Merrill would make some adjustments and allow West just two goals this time around, however the Jays would only find the back of the net once.
“The first time we played them was a turning point in our season,” said Merrill boys soccer head coach Will Bialecki. “So I was excited to see how we would match up the second time around. And our guys played a great game. Tuesday night was the first time we switched our formation all season. We moved one of our forward spots to the midfield, knowing that West’s strength is in the center of the field, and we could slow them down by clogging passing lanes. West is an extremely talented team, with great chemistry. But the change in formation forced them to try working the play from outside in and prevented a lot of the chances we gave up the first time around.”
West would strike early, taking a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute of play, as Nick Baasch took a pass from Kyle Durr and found the back of the net. In the 25th minute the Warriors would score again, this time on an unassisted shot from Ethan Cattanach.
Merrill’s goal wouldn’t come until the 87th minute, when Caleb Novitch found some space and fired a shot passed the West goalkeeper.
“Our guys stepped up, made stops, and worked the ball in transition really well,” added Bialecki. “We held a powerhouse to only two goals, and we were able to net a late goal from Caleb Novitch to make the final 2-1. It was a great show for our guys to know the result of the first game and how good West is, but we refused to back down and could have very easily come away with a tie.”
Merrill would fire seven shots on goal against the Warriors with one finding the goal. West was able to muster up 11 shots on goal, as Merrill goalkeeper Wyatt Grosskurth saved nine shots.
The Merrill soccer team will head to Wisconsin Rapids on Thursday, Oct. 10, for round two against the Raiders, with Merrill previously falling 3-1 on Sept. 17.