Amery remains the roadblock for New Richmond soccer team
The hopes of a Middle Border Conference championship for the New Richmond boys soccer team were dimmed at Amery last Tuesday.
The Tigers have been able to beat every team in the MBC except Amery. A Tiger win Tuesday would have put them in line for the 2012 MBC title, but Amery won 4-0. The Tigers would now need Barron or Baldwin-Woodville, Amery's opponents this week, to pull off an upset for the Tigers to have a chance at the conference title.
The Tigers complete their MBC schedule on Thursday with a home game against Spooner. The final regular season game for the Tigers will be played on Saturday at Hastings, Minn.
WIAA soccer regional tournament play begins next Tuesday. The Tigers will be competing in Division 1 this season.
The loss at Amery came one day after the Tigers defeated Somerset 3-1, a game where the Tigers dominated the first half of the game by using their ball control style. On Tuesday, Amery imposed its will, and its style of play, on the Tigers.
"They banged us around pretty good," said Tiger coach Pete Melloy. "They're bigger and stronger and more athletic than we are."
Amery's plan was clear. The Warriors charged at any Tiger who tried to control the ball, forcing the team out of its patient ball control pattern.
Melloy said the game plan was to not give Amery any free kicks and not let Amery leading scorer Jake Mullendore get any through balls that he could turn into breakaways.
Amery took the lead in the game's 25th minute, scoring on a penalty kick. The Warriors extended the lead to 2-0 six minutes later, when Mullendore intercepted a pass between Tiger defenders and was off on a breakaway.
Mullendore scored two more goals in the second half.
Melloy said the Tigers played better in the second half, but wants the team to be better prepared for those opponents that try to make games a physical battle.
"I want them to play grittier and tougher," Melloy said.
Win at Barron
There was a completely new starting lineup for the Tigers when they played at Barron last Thursday. Melloy was frustrated with the team's energy level in the loss at Amery last Tuesday. He decided to use Wednesday's practice as a scrimmage between the starters and the varsity reserves, calling up four JV players to round out the reserve lineup. The message was simple. Whoever won the scrimmage would start on Thursday. The reserves won, so they got to play the first 12 minutes of the game at Barron.
"They went out and gave their best and worked hard," Melloy said of the new starters.
When the usual starters took the field, they were able to score twice in the first half. Senior Aaron Daul scored the first of those goals. He took a pass from Joey Turnipseed and put a well-placed shot into the lower corner of the net in the game's 21st minute.
The second goal came off a free kick in the 36th minute. Brad Brusewitz pounded a free kick from 40 yards out toward the Barron goal. The Barron keeper bobbled the ball and, in that split second, Eric Miller swooped in to pop the ball into the goal.
The Tigers took on one of the toughest opponents in western Wisconsin on Saturday when they hosted the Hudson Raiders. The Tigers played an excellent defensive game, but suffered a 5-1 loss in the non-conference game.
Melloy said he expects Hudson to receive the second seed behind Eau Claire Memorial in the WIAA Division 1 sectional tournament bracket that will be announced later this week.
"They definitely could contend for state," Melloy said of Hudson's squad.
For this game the Tigers used a more defensive-minded lineup that the coaches will likely use in games during the WIAA tournaments. In this formation, seniors Jake Taubman and Eric Miller were used as the center defenders.
In the second half the coaches went to more a offensive style, but found it didn't match up especially well against the Raiders. The only Tiger goal came in the 51st minute when Aaron Daul scored off a crossing pass from Cole Olson.
The Tigers complete their regular season schedule with games this Thursday and Saturday. Their final regular season home game will be played Thursday against Spooner. The Tigers will play a non-conference game Saturday at Hastings, Minn.