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State ranking, beating Hudson cap New Richmond boys soccer regular season

New Richmond’s Nathan Feiner (4) boots the ball upfield as teammate Sam Hagen looks on. Feiner has emerged this season as a key catalyst in the Tigers’ attack. 1 / 2
Tiger junior Jack Hop (19) sends a kick up the sideline to clear the ball out of the defensive zone in a recent game against Cumberland. 2 / 2

In many ways, this has been the most successful regular season in the history of the New Richmond boys soccer program.

The Tigers want to be able to say that about their post-season as well.

The post-season began this Tuesday when the Tigers hosted Holmen in the opening round of Division 2 regional tournament play. New Richmond is the top seed in the regional tournament bracket. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play again this Thursday, facing the winner of Tuesday’s game between fourth seed La Crosse Central and fifth seed Tomah. The winner of Thursday’s game will be regional champions. The regional champion will play again on Thursday, Oct. 24, in the opening round of the sectional tournament.

Through their play last week, the Tigers showed they are playing at peak form. Last Monday, Oct. 7, the Tigers earned one of the most significant wins in team history, winning under the lights at Hudson 1-0. This is the first time the Tigers have ever beaten Hudson. The Tigers also scored their first-ever wins over St. Paul Academy and Hastings this season.

The win over Hudson came the same day that it was announced that the Tigers are ranked fifth in the state in Division 2, according to the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association. This is the first time in team history that the Tigers have made an appearance in the state rankings.

Luke Landaal, who has moved into the top 20 in the state in goals and total points, scored the Tigers’ goal against Hudson. Brad Brusewitz got the ball at midfield and played it ahead to Landaal. Landaal was able to speed past a Hudson defender. He blistered a shot into the upper corner of the net that the Hudson goalie couldn’t reach.

Through the rest of the game Hudson had more scoring chances, but the Tiger defense came up big time and time again. Tiger coach Pete Melloy moved senior Casey Turnipseed back to sweeper for this game. Turnipseed has been moved all over the field this season to answer the Tigers’ biggest need in a particular game. His value showed in the defense’s performance at Hudson, when he was assigned the task of shutting down Hudson’s top scorer.

“He was a rock back there,” Melloy said.

Also stepping up to the challenge was Tiger junior goalkeeper Rocco Ficociello, who made 15 saves.

“That was the best Rocco ever played, by far, in his life,” Melloy stated.

In the last 20 minutes of the game, Hudson made charge after charge at the Tigers. Whether it was Ficociello or one of the defenders, the Tigers came up with the defensive effort to stop the charge.

“It was the most intense I’ve ever seen our kids,” Melloy said. “Hudson threw the kitchen sink at us and we withstood the pressure.”

Melloy put the win in perspective when he said “hands down, that’s the best team we’ve ever beaten.”

The Tiger coaches made several position changes last week in getting the team ready for the playoffs. Moving Turnipseed to sweeper and Sam Giese to stopper was done to fortify the defense. Seniors Shane Blackman and Mitch Giannini were moved to the outside midfield positions against Hudson to give the Tigers more strength in the middle of the field.

The final regular season game of the season for the Tigers was played last Thursday, where the Tigers steamrolled the winless Spooner Rails 8-0. Landaal scored four times in the game, including three in the first 17 minutes of action. Brusewitz scored twice, with Blackman and Giannini each notching one goal.

The win was the 19th of the season, another record the Tigers have established this season.

“It’s been a pretty significant season as far as milestones go,” Melloy said.

It is quite clear that the Tigers have plans to play deep into the playoffs. Melloy said the regular season was “phase one” in the team’s goals for the season.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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