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2018 Preview: New Richmond boys soccer wants more

Zach Weinzierl lines up to take a header during a drill in a New Richmond boys soccer practice last week. Dave Newman / RiverTown Multimedia

More. That's what the New Richmond boys soccer team wants.

In each of the past two autumns, the Tigers reached the WIAA State Championships. Those are the first two state tournament visits in program history.

In both instances, the Tigers were beaten in their first game at state. The objective this year is to win a game at state, to get a chance to play in the state championship game.

The Tigers were defeated by Whitefish Bay in the 2017 state semifinals, 5-0. Whitefish Bay then topped Elkhorn 6-1 in the state title game. In the 2016 state semifinals, the Tigers lost to Oregon, 2-1.

To get the Tigers more playoff ready, they've scheduled some strong Division 2 opponents. Teams like Oregon, Marshfield, Onalaska, Holmen, Monona Grove, D.C. Everest, Hudson, Chippewa Falls, Wausau West and River Falls give the Tigers a potent non-conference schedule.

Second-year Tiger coach Darian Blattner pointed to Marshfield, Holmen, Onalaska and River Falls as the top obstacles the Tigers will need to get past to get through the sectional bracket.

The Tigers do have holes to fill after losing a number of top players to graduation. That's led by keeper Blake Getschel, defender Mason Marek and midfielder Tyler Blattner.

The Tiger attack starts with junior Andrew "AJ" Johnson. He scored 47 goals last season and is considered one of the premier players in western Wisconsin. The Tigers' opponents know that too. Coach Blattner said Johnson will return to his forward position, but he will also see time in the midfield to force defenses to adjust. While Johnson is known best as a scorer, the Tiger coaches respect his vision and playmaking ability and want to give him opportunities to use those skills.

Jose Rapalo, Caleb Armstrong, Joe Casey, Michael Benedict and Chase Richard will all see time at forward.

Stepping in at goalkeeper will be senior Ryan Landt, who's been the understudy the past two years. Carter Melby will become the team's second keeper.

The coaches are counting on a number of returning players to step up into more important roles this season. Nick Cheslock, Jack Stuedemann, Phillip Neblich and Dave Miller are players the coaches are counting upon to take up the important roles in the middle of the field.

"We need those guys to control the middle of the field," Blattner said.

The Tigers are a defensive-based, ball control team. The coaches are putting Cheslock and Stuedemann in the key roles in front of the keeper.

The depth on the squad is outstanding. In this weekend's scrimmage at Blaine, the Tigers took 26 players. Blattner said any of those 26 could see time in the varsity lineup at different times this season. Seniors like Jordan Lyons, Javier Perez-Sanchez, Carson Hare and Ty Johnson are knocking on the door for playing time.

The growth, physically and in soccer skills, is something Blattner noted often. He pointed to players like Austin Bau, Martin Stenske, Zach Weinzierl, Clay Gess and Michael Benedict as players who looked young last season, but now look fully ready for the rigors of a full varsity season.

The team also took a unique approach to its summer contact days, spending several days learning the expectations of being a college player at the University of Dubuque.

One of the best tests for the Tigers awaits them in the Middle Border Conference. Amery is the defending MBC champion and the Warriors advanced to state in Division 3.

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 more than 30 years.

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