Tigers measure up against SPA
For the past few years, the New Richmond boys soccer team has faced St. Paul Academy.
Each time, the Tigers have taken their lumps from the standout Minnesota program that reached the MSHSL state championship game last year.
This year, the story was different. SPA graduated 13 players, while New Richmond fields an experienced, savvy team that has developed a keen knack for controlling the ball. The Tigers were able to dominate time of possession in defeating SPA 3-0 on Friday.
The name of the game for the Tigers this season is ball control and they looked like experts on the subject in the first half of Friday's game. The Tigers knocked the ball all over the field, tiring out the SPA defenders by starting their attack deep in the defensive zone.
Coach Pete Melloy is a strong proponent of building an attack from the defensive end and this year's Tigers own one of the strongest groups of defenders in the team's history. Seniors Brad Brusewitz and Casey Turnipseed man the center of the defense, with junior Jack Hop and freshman Zach Landt as the outside defenders.
"Our back four is really strong," Melloy said. "You're only as good as your defense is."
By spreading the field, the Tigers were able to create numerous scoring chances. They outshot SPA 18-2 in the game.
The crisp ball movement helped the Tigers build a 2-0 lead in the first 13 minutes of the game. The first goal came 10 minutes into the game when Sam Hagen scored off a pass from Hop. Less than three minutes later, Adam Schoepke scored. He made a strong move to the far post and was in position when Josh Geigle delivered a pass from along the sideline.
The score remained 2-0 until there were six minutes left in the game. Sam Giese, who spent most of his career on defense, was inserted on offense to give one of the starters a breather. Giese saw an SPA defender drop the ball off for the goalie to take a goal kick. Giese darted in and stole the ball, using a quick touch to punch the ball into the goal.
"It was really a heads-up play on his part," Melloy said.
Melloy is a graduate of SPA. He was a first team all-state player under legendary Minnesota soccer coach Buzz Lagos.
Earlier in the week the Tigers scored a pair of Middle Border Conference wins. The two games were extreme opposites. The Tigers had to fight hard to get a 1-0 win over Baldwin-Woodville on Thursday. That came two days after the Tigers swamped Hayward 12-0.
Baldwin-Woodville has proven to be a formidable defensive team in the early stages of this season, but the Blackhawks have shown no offensive ability. B-W hasn't scored in its first four games, but they've kept each game close with a strong defense.
"Their defense was really organized," Melloy said of B-W. "They didn't give away a lot of easy scoring opportunities."
The Tigers didn't either for that matter, holding the Blackhawks without a shot on goal.
The only goal of the game was scored by Schoepke at the 32:43 mark off an assist from Charlie L'Allier. L'Allier got the ball at the top of the box and fed a pass to Schoepke, who was slashing toward the goalpost. Schoepke has scored in every Tiger game so far this season.
There was no trouble scoring goals against the young Hayward team last Tuesday. Hagen scored the first goal at the 8:14 mark and by halftime the Tigers were in front 8-0.
Luke Landaal led the Tigers with four goals in the win. Schoepke scored three times and Hagen, Geigle, Shane Blackman, Mitch Giannini and Russ Hop each scored one goal.
The Tigers start facing the toughest part of their conference schedule this week. On Thursday the Tigers play at home against Somerset before playing a non-conference game at Menomonie on Saturday.
Next week begins with games at Amery and Barron on Monday and Tuesday. Like the Tigers, Somerset, Amery and Barron have all started their MBC schedules with 3-0 records.