By Thomas Weltin
The Rockford Rockets visited Haddorff Field on Sept. 24 to face the Mound Westonka High School boys soccer team. The White Hawks needed to handle another important section showdown with seeding implications at this first of two games during Homecoming Week. With all of the daily (and nightly) distractions during that time, it was interesting to see which team would show up.
It turned out that the team was aware that a good seeding is entirely in their control. A shot by ninth-grader Michael Doshan was deflected for a corner. Senior Cole Kahmeyer scored in the eighth minute of play.
Subsequent corners always presented danger for the visitors, as their positioning on defense got upended with quick moves by the White Hawks midfielders and forwards. In addition, sophomore Isaac Miner always joins the offense on corner kicks, as his 6’3” frame draws all kinds of attention for the defense.
Senior captain Andrew Abegglen scored the second goal of the evening in the 20th minute.
The Rockets keeper had no chance for a save of the free kick from 20 yards. On average, Abegglen almost scores on one free kick per game from any given distance, which is astounding.
Senior captain Aidan Maloney fired a shot from 25 yards, and the Rockets goalie had use everything he had to make the save and prevent an even higher scoring deficit. He was the best player on the field in the first half, as he also saved a penalty kick after junior Daniel Neve was fouled in the penalty box.
Shortly before halftime, Rockford scored the 2-1 on their first notable attack. The ball was crossed from the top left of the penalty box, and a Rockets forward was fastest to the ball, pushing it across the goal line. At halftime, the score was 2-1. Given all the missed chances by the White Hawks, it should have been much higher.
For the first 10 minutes of the second half, Rockford broke free of the White Hawks’ stranglehold and tried hard to score the equalizer, but with no success. The MWHS defense stood its ground. Fullbacks seniors Nico Phommahaxay and Nels Larson both had an outstanding game, defending the wings. With 10 minutes remaining, White Hawks head coach Wayne Bellamy cemented the defense even more, and the White Hawks comfortably ran out the clock. 2-1 is a close result, but the victory was never in danger.
Looking at varsity schedules of any sport, White Hawks fans always mark their calendars for matchups with Holy Family, Orono … and Delano.
The Tigers came to town on Sept. 26 with a similar record and in the middle of a section seeding fight with the White Hawks. It turned out you needed a healthy stomach if you were in the stands watching this game.
The hometown 11 came out of the gate attacking the Tigers’ net and created numerous good chances. Junior David Godoy-Henderson and Doshan were pests for the Delano defense that night, as they were constantly interfering high with their pass play. Midfielders Maloney, Kahmeyer and sophomore Santiago Phommahaxay were the next difficult hurdle on the way to the White Hawks goal.
The Tigers realized quickly that they would rather play long passes and take their chances with 50/50 balls. Delano has excellent and fast strikers, and if they win a ball, it would be trouble for any defense. After 10 minutes, the game turned into a back-and-forth affair that left you on the edge of your seat.
Doshan capitalized on a Delano mistake in the 16th minute for the White Hawks lead. On the other side, with a heads-up play, junior keeper Mark Pederson-Carlson left his net and came out beyond the penalty box to clear a long pass that would have led to a potentially fatal breakaway.
The 27th minute provided a highlight reel moment. Play started on the right side just outside the White Hawks penalty box. Larson and Neve started the attack with a give-and-go. The second pass almost went over the sideline, but Larson reached it in time, passed the ball to himself and ran around the Tigers defender, leaving him behind. The subsequent cross found Santiago Phommahaxay, who chipped the ball over the goalie for the 2-0 lead – a beautiful goal after a beautiful setup and effort by Neve and Larson. However, Delano cut the lead in half in the 34th minute with a penalty kick (that was highly questionable, in this writer’s opinion).
Red alert at the start the second half as Delano hit the crossbar after Pederson-Carlson made two saves in succession but was unable to hold on to the ball. On the other end, Doshan passed the ball to Maloney, who missed the net only by inches. Delano scored the equalizer in the 51st minute for a 2-2 score.
Just minutes later, Larson executed a throw-in to Godoy-Henderson on the right side. Godoy-Henderson always attracts a crowd of defenders, and this time he battled with three Delano players. He ended up winning the ball and scored the 3-2 with a hard, low shot into the bottom right corner. However, Delano answered right away with the 3-3 equalizer in the 57th minute.
All White Hawks players fought hard throughout the game. Nico Phommahaxay and Miner on defense handled a big workload, as Delano ran their attacks over the right side or with a roaming attacker that Miner was guarding man-on-man.
Sophomore Jack Ryall was also very active, providing support on offense with good passes and touches. It was deserving for him to score in the 65th minute after taking the ball from a Delano midfielder for the 4-3 White Hawks lead that ended up being the final score.
And just like that, it was Senior Night at Haddorff Field. The White Hawks played their final regular season home game on Oct. 1 against the Hutchinson Tigers.
Coach Bellamy tweaked the lineup and started seniors Maloney, Abegglen, Kahmeyer, Larson, Nico Phommahaxay, Ethan Fetters-Vandenheuvel, Thomas Ruud, Jacob Blume and Tyler Franzen. They were also introduced at halftime alongside their parents.
On the pitch, this game was decided early. Hutchinson is rebuilding and did not have high hopes for a victory. The White Hawks came out swinging against their conference and section foe. The Tigers stood their ground and avoided getting scored on for 10 minutes. Their defense was positioned very high, and they were constantly challenged with long passes from midfield. Neve surprised the Hutch keeper, who was out of position, with a shot from 47 yards that barely missed the net.
Larson scored the 1-0 in the 16th minute and then followed up with a nice pass to Kahmeyer, who deposited the ball in the net in the 25th minute for the 2-0 lead. Neve scored the next two goals in the 27th and 28th minutes before Abegglen pushed the score to 5-0 at halftime.
After the senior ceremony, Ruud scored a beauty in the 43rd minute. Hutchinson took advantage of a miscommunication on defense and netted their “honor goal” in the 49th minute. Doshan scored the final two goals in the 58th and 64th minutes on this damp Monday evening. The final score was 8-1 in favor of the White Hawks.
This last week of the regular season is busy. The team traveled to Mayer for a makeup game on Tuesday then have a showdown with the Orono Spartans on Thursday before closing out the season Saturday at Willmar.
With a current record of 11-2, the White Hawks control their destiny for a high seed in the section playoffs. The first playoff match will likely be played at Haddorff Field on Tuesday, Oct. 9.