Minnesota opponents toughen New Richmond soccer team for playoffs
If the New Richmond boys soccer team goes on an extensive run in the WIAA playoffs, a good deal of the credit should go to the difficult non-conference schedule set up for the Tigers this season.
The Tigers carried a 16-7 record into the playoffs, which began on Tuesday, but five of their seven losses have come in non-conference games. Two of those losses were last week, to St. Paul Academy and Hastings, Minn.
Last Tuesday the Tigers faced SPA, one of the top-ranked teams in Minnesota. The Tiger coaches said that the 3-0 loss to SPA was one of the best performances by the New Richmond team this season. It took SPA 30 minutes to score its first goal and the score remained 1-0 until the 64th minute of the game. SPA scored its final goal with four minutes remaining.
The Tigers had their chances to win in Saturday's game at Hastings. The Tigers struck first in the battle, with senior Aaron Daul scoring off an assist from Joey Turnipseed at 29:38. Hastings tied the game at the 35:58 mark.
Hastings scored the only goal of the second half at the 62:37 mark.
Rocco Ficociello made 10 saves in goal for the Tigers, while New Richmond put eight shots on goal. Ficociello also had 14 saves against SPA.
The Tiger coaches had purposely stacked the non-conference schedule with tough opponents like SPA, Hudson, Prairie Seeds Academy, River Falls and Hastings to give the Tigers an awareness of the level of opposition they will see in the Division 1 playoffs.
Those playoffs began Tuesday, when the Tigers hosted Menomonie. The winner of Tuesday's game will play again on Thursday, likely at Hudson.
Final MBC game
New Richmond finished its Middle Border Conference schedule last Thursday by polishing off Spooner 10-0 in a wind-whipped game at the NRHS field.
Spooner is the bottom team in the MBC standings and the Tigers were able to keep the ball in the Rails' end of the field nearly the entire game.
The Tigers got two goals in the first 13 minutes from senior Jake Taubman. He also got the final goal of the day, ending the game in the 67th minute on the 10-goal mercy rule.
Senior Eric Miller scored four goals, all in the second half. Joey Turnipseed, Brad Brusewitz and Vitaliy Gutsal also scored. Gutsal's goal was a corner kick that caught the wind and carried directly into the upper corner of the Spooner goal.
The win leaves the Tigers with a 14-2 conference record. They finish second in the MBC final standings behind Amery, which finished 14-1-1.