By Thomas Weltin
MWHS vs. Mayer Lutheran, Sept. 12
It is always special to see old friends again, exchanging stories, laughing and enjoying each other’s company. Things were different on Sept. 12, when the Mayer Lutheran Crusaders bused into town for a match with the Mound Westonka White Hawks. A lot of the opposing players knew each other, as four players from the Crusader squad were part of the Westonka U18 team that went to the state tournament this spring. They have also played together on club teams for many years.
The White Hawks knew exactly what to watch for and who to pay attention to. Derrick Bakke and Jake Salzsiedler are the speedy Crusader forwards, backed up by clever and tricky Lukas Gilbert in the offensive midfield. The White Hawks central defenders, seniors Matt Humbert and Hank Nagel, proved up to the task, always trying to be a step ahead of the opponent’s attack strategies.
There is nothing like a fast start of your favorite team, and the White Hawks did not disappoint on that warm fall evening. The score was 2-0 after 10 minutes. The game started according to plan, as MWHS junior Aidan Maloney sprinted along the right side of the field and found junior Joe Fasching, who made a quick short pass to wide open senior Philipp Weltin for an uncontested layup in the sixth minute. Fasching, with his second assist of the day, found Maloney, who beat the goaltender with a low shot into the left corner.
Mayer Lutheran did not deviate from their game plan and kept playing their fast attack game. One of the great duels of the game was on the left defensive side between MWHS junior Nico Phommahaxay and Salzsiedler. Both players have incredible speed, and their foot races were entertaining all evening long.
In the 15th minute, the Crusaders fired a dangerously hard shot that barely missed the White Hawks cage, guarded by senior Jonathan Neve. On the other side, a shot by freshman Santiago Phommahaxay barely missed the net. Fasching over left proved to be the best way to penetrate the defense. His runs, along with the long throw-ins by Nagel that are similar to corner kicks, are always dangerous.
Just before halftime, senior Owen Mather found senior Matt Humbert, who joins the offense on almost every corner. Mather’s powerful header from 6 yards left no doubt that the ball crossed the goal line for a 3-0 lead.
In the second half, the White Hawks underlined their superiority in the air by scoring another goal with a header. Mather, with his second assist of the night, found Fasching in the 50th minute with a precise free kick.
Mayer Lutheran scored their first goal immediately afterwards when Derrick Bakke capitalized on an error for a 1-4 score. Just a few minutes later, the Crusaders were awarded a free kick in good position, 18 yards from the White Hawks net. Somehow the ball found its way through the wall and left no chance for a save.
The spectators that night were now treated to goal after goal. Fasching converted a penalty kick after he was fouled in the Crusaders box. On the other side, the Crusaders tried to keep up with the scoring by netting a hard shot from 11 yards.
After a highly entertaining game, the White Hawks prevailed 5-3 over Mayer Lutheran.
MWHS vs. Waconia, Sept. 14
Just two days later, the White Hawks traveled to Waconia for a date with the Wildcats. On a typical late September 88-degree day in Minnesota, the Wildcats were primed for a victory since it was their Senior Night. In years past, Waconia was always a tough opponent, and that proved to be the case again that afternoon.
The Wildcats took control of the game, had the first chance after a corner and also scored the first goal after a penalty shot was awarded in the ninth minute of play. The reason for the penalty kick remains a mystery, but calls on the field are hardly ever reversed.
As in previous games, the White Hawks were deadly accurate in standard situations. A standard situation is a restart of the game – it can be a free kick, corner or throw-in. After countless corner kicks in practice and game situations over the years, Mather knows exactly where his teammates can be found in these situations. This time, it was Humbert again, equalizing the score with a harder in the 12th minute.
A combination between Mather, senior Victor Nelson, senior Shane Yanta and Fasching was a sight to see in the 15th minute, but the Wildcats keeper paid attention and made a good save. Just a few minutes later, junior Andrew Abegglen took advantage of a mistake in the Waconia defense and scored the 2-1. He was unguarded in the box and pick-pocketed the ball from the goalie, who could not hold on to the ball after a hard shot by Maloney.
The White Hawks then took control of the game. Santiago Phommahaxay and Abegglen tested the goaltender with shots before halftime.
The second half was as topsy-turvy as it can get. The onslaught of goals and chances started right after the opening whistle. Senior Philipp Weltin was the beneficiary, after a free kick by Abegglen was deflected. Fasching recovered and quickly passed to the left side of the goal, where Weltin was waiting with his back to the goal. He shielded the ball from a defender, turned quickly and left no chance for a save with a low shot. Fasching scored just minutes later after one of his trademark runs over the left side to give the White Hawks a comfortable 4-1 lead.
You would think that this score would deflate the opponent, but that was not the case. Westonka let their guard down and Waconia answered, scoring with a nice header into the upper left corner and another header minutes later to make the score 4-3.
For a span of 10 minutes, the White Hawks were out of rhythm. The Wildcats took full advantage of that situation and equalized the score in the 61st minute with a deflection after a cross from 7 yards. The White Hawks fans were stunned, while the Waconia fans were celebrating their team.
Slowly, Westonka fought to regain their mojo and tilted the game out of harms way, back to the Waconia half. While both teams were mentally preparing for overtime, there was one last chance for the White Hawks. Mather, on a three-assist day, took a shot from 16 yards, which got stuck in the Wildcat defense, and the ball was cleared out of bounds. Nagel executed the throw-in, which eighth-grader Michael Doshan managed to control in heavy traffic. Doshan quickly passed to Fasching, who scored the game-winner in the 78th minute. Westonka won a close game 5-4.
MWHS vs. SW Christian, Sept. 16
A grueling three-game week concluded Sept. 16, when Southwest Christian came to town. Meaning no disrespect to the previous opponent, the White Hawks knew that the Stars were a tough team, looking at their current record and the fact that the teams tied hard-fought games the last two seasons.
Soccer critics oftentimes complain about the lack of goals and chances in a match. While there were not that many great scoring chances on display that afternoon, the way both teams skirmished and fought for every yard left the spectators on the edge of their seats.
The majority of play took place between the 20-yard lines. A midfielder’s job is to stop the opponent, help out on defense and also carry the ball long enough for the attackers to get into position and to create opportunities. Both the White Hawks and Stars midfield players were equal, and the fight for possession was on!
Humbert had a chance to score with a header after a Nagel throw-in. Weltin was surprised to find himself with the ball after a defensive blunder. Looking to find a teammate in a better position, he passed the ball into the center of the box, but no White Hawk was able to get to the ball in time.
On the other side, the Stars had a breakaway. Neve left the net to come to the rescue, and, thankfully, the shot missed the empty goal. Abegglen had a chance with a free kick in good position 18 yards out. His hard shot chipped off some paint, hitting the top of the crossbar.
Fasching had the best chance of the game so far in the 33rd minute, when he beat a defender after a Mather pass. His shot was saved by the very good Stars goaltender.
In the second half, both teams continued right where they left off. After some pushing and holding inside the Stars box, a penalty kick was awarded to the White Hawks in the 56th minute. Mather, who converted all of the penalty shots he took this season, was a logical choice to convert. However, the hard and precise shot was somehow saved and took the air out of the White Hawks players for a few minutes, as they tried to come to grips with what had just happened. Southwest Christian tried to capitalize, but Westonka snapped out of the funk and concentrated on things both present and future, as opposed to wondering what could have been.
Because of his long reach, Nagel is responsible for almost all throw-ins inside the opponent’s half. In the 65th minute, Nagel launched the ball to the edge of the penalty box, Humbert extended and altered the flight path and Joe Fasching finally got it on net, beating the Stars goalie, who left his position to try to defend the attack. Just like that, the score was 1-0 in favor of the White Hawks.
Southwest Christian now abandoned their defense and threw everything they had towards the White Hawks net. Attacker Doshan helped out defending in midfield. The defense was challenged mostly through the middle but also over the left side of play. Nelson played outstandingly, keeping the opponent to the outside and away from the net. On the other side, Nico Phommahaxay did his job just as well.
In the middle, Humbert and Nagel sacrificed their bodies to block shots. Whatever ended up coming on net was saved by Neve. At the final whistle, the score was 1-0 in favor of the White Hawks.
After this rollercoaster of emotions, the White Hawks remain unbeaten and in hard pursuit of the Wright County Conference Championship with five games to go in the regular season.
Photos of the Southwest Christian by Dennis Hoogeveen
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