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New Richmond boys soccer stopped one step from state tournament

New Richmond senior Shane Blackman (9) and his teammates celebrate after Blackman scored the first Tiger goal in last Thursday’s comeback win against River Falls. 1 / 2
New Richmond's Jack Hop (19) boots the ball upfield during the Tigers' win over River Falls in the sectional semifinals.2 / 2

The New Richmond boys soccer team advanced further than it ever has before in the WIAA playoffs.

But it wasn’t as far as the Tigers had hoped.

The 2013 Tigers hoped to become the first New Richmond soccer team to reach the WIAA state tournament. The Tigers advanced to Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 sectional championship game in Marshfield. That’s where New Richmond was finally stopped. Marshfield scored three goals in a 15-minute span in the first half. Marshfield protected that lead, despite a passionate onslaught of shots by the Tigers, to finish with a 3-1 win over New Richmond in the sectional title game.

New Richmond finishes the season with a 22-2-2 record, by far the best record in team history.

Tiger coach Pete Melloy made sure to say that this was the team’s best record “to date.” Melloy spoke confidently that he believes the team should be a threat to reach the sectional level for several years to come.

“One thing our kids learned this year is how to win,” Melloy said. “It’s more of a culture.”

Another thing the Tigers learned is they have to be ready for more physical play in the playoffs. The two final games of the season against Marshfield and River Falls were easily the most physical games the Tigers played this year.

“When you get to this level you have to play tough,” Melloy said. “We haven’t played enough teams like that. It’s part of the learning process.”

Marshfield’s first goal came after a collision at midfield, which left Marshfield with a numbers advantage as they converged on New Richmond’s goal. The second goal came off a penalty kick and the third came off a shot from 20 yards out.

Melloy said the Tigers didn’t panic and at halftime they set specific goals to come back. The first objective was to score in the first 20 minutes of the second half. They did that when senior Mitch Giannini  chased down the ball after a corner kick and snapped it into the Marshfield net 12 minutes into the second half.

The Tigers nearly got another goal three minutes later. Giannini made a run down the sideline, feeding the ball to Casey Turnipseed in front of the Marshfield goal. Turnipseed’s shot struck the crossbar.

“We dominated the whole second half,” Melloy said. “(Marshfield) had a good team, but I think we were pretty even.”

While the Tigers didn’t qualify for state, one team from the Middle Border Conference did advance to Madison. Barron won the Division 4 sectional title, which was played in Marshfield on Saturday before the Division 2 sectional championship game.

New Richmond advanced to the sectional final with a wild overtime win against River Falls in the sectional semifinal last Thursday. Turnipseed scored from a wild scramble in front of the Wildcat bench 3:53 into the overtime to give the Tigers a 3-2 win.

The winning goal came when the River Falls goalkeeper collided with Tigers Nathan Feiner and Luke Landaal as they all went for the ball in front of the goal. The ball bounced off the tangle of bodies to Turnipseed, who won the game with his 10th goal of the season.

That play showed the ferocity of how hard the game was played. Feiner came away with cuts covering his face after he was stepped on during the fray.

The Tigers were fortunate in several ways to reach the overtime. They fell behind 2-0, before battling back to tie the game with 7:23 left in regulation.

The game nearly didn’t reach the overtime. The Tigers used up so much energy coming back and River Falls put on heavy pressure in the final minutes of the game. Tiger keeper Rocco Ficociello made a diving save with a minute left in regulation, with the ball bouncing to an uncovered Wildcat player who shot the ball toward the vacated net.

Out of nowhere appeared Tiger defender Sam Hagen, who punted the ball away from the net just before it reached the goal line.

“It was like a miracle,” Melloy said of Hagen’s save. “I was thinking it was game over. Sam bailed us out.”

River Falls scored 1:12 into the game and the Wildcats stretched their lead to 2-0 with a goal at the 31:12 mark.

The turning point of the game was when a River Falls forward received a red card late in the first half for repeated dangerous plays. River Falls had to play one man short the rest of the game.

While River Falls controlled the action in the first half, the Tigers used the man advantage to maintain a strong attack in the second half. The Tigers’ steady pressure produced a goal 12 minutes into the second half. Feiner drew the defense to him, before sending a pass to senior Shane Blackman. Blackman ripped a bullet of a shot from 22 yards out that the Wildcat keeper couldn’t reach for the first Tiger goal.

The Tigers tied the score at the 72:37 mark. The Tigers’ initial shot hit the crossbar and deflected straight down. Landaal dashed to the goal line to bump the ball into the net for the tying goal.

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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