The Wauseon boys soccer team, with a roster of just 12 players, battled the rain, the wind and Liberty Center on Tuesday night but came up a bit short and fell 4-3 on a goal late in the second half. With 11 players always on the field and just one on the bench, the Indians started slowly and tried to maintain an unhurried and deliberate pace but the Tigers, able to substitute liberally, kept the pressure on with an up tempo game and challenged Wauseon to keep up.
From the outset Liberty Center controlled the action, spending a lot of time on the Wauseon side of the field. The Indians put together an occasional rush up the field but never threatened to score until a major penalty was called on LC inside their penalty box, resulting in a direct free kick. Aaron Spieles drilled a low shot into the left side of the net and Wauseon had a 1-0 lead at 30:15 of the first half.
The one goal deficit made the Tigers even more motivated as they peppered the Indians goal area with shot after shot, with Joshua Blohm finally driving one home at the 20:42 mark to tie the score.
The Indians responded by playing more aggressively on the offensive end, finally creating a lot more opportunities, and regained the lead when Canidate Vickery scored an unassisted goal with 16:09 on the clock. “Sometimes getting opportunities is difficult but to have that many opportunities when you have only one sub is a good job,” said Wauseon coach Shawn Kaufmann.
But, Liberty Center was persistent and used their ball handling skills to keep attacking the Wauseon defense. With a little more than eight minutes remaining in the half, LC’s Conner Strauss took a pass in the middle of the field about 25 yards out and fired a shot past Lucas Blanchong, tying the contest at 2-2.
The teams went to halftime tied but when the second half began the Tigers pounced almost immediately. Just one minute and two seconds had elapsed when Brad Tonjes scored to put LC in front 3-2 for their first lead of the day. That advantage, however, did not last long.
The Indian offense, now well rested from the halftime break, turned the tables on the Tigers and began to dominate play. Shortly after losing the lead, Brady Kinnersley broke free from the pack in front of the LC goal and sent a screamer into the back of the net to tie the game for the third time with 38:51 left. Wauseon controlled the game for the next 15 minutes but could not manage to put that fourth goal on the board.
As the contest wore on the lack of bench relief began to have its effect on the Indians and finally caught up with them when, at 14:04 remaining, Tanner Reimund scored, putting the Tigers back on top 4-3. Reimund’s goal proved to be the game winner as Liberty Center went home with their first NWOAL victory of the year.
Despite the loss, Coach Kaufmann was impressed with the effort. “Our boys are willing to rise to the occasion,” he said. “We try to do that for league games and all games for sure, but league games have a different feel.”
Wauseon, now 1-10 on the year, will be at home again tonight to face Archbold at 5 p.m. before traveling to Maumee on Saturday to take on the Panthers in a noon start.
Bill O’Connell can be reached at email@example.com