By Thomas Weltin
On Oct. 2, the Mound Westonka High School boys soccer team traveled to Mayer for a makeup game that was canceled a few weeks back due to inclement weather. While it did not rain during the match, the pitch at Mayer-Lutheran High School was in desolate condition, as the rain in recent days turned the surface into a giant mud pit. Even though soccer cleats help to offset such conditions, the field was almost as slippery as an ice skating rink. It was a miracle that no players on either side got hurt.
White Hawks head coach Wayne Bellamy simplified the game plan, as “normal” pass play from defense to midfield to attack was too tough to execute in these conditions. The new model called for long passes to the front of the net and letting the fast White Hawks forwards make the most out of it. All went according to plan at the beginning the game, as junior David Godoy-Henderson capitalized on a corner for the 1-0 lead already in the second minute.
The Mayer Crusaders were awarded a penalty shot, as one of their attackers fell down in a battle with a White Hawks defender. The field conditions did not help the case, and the questionable call enabled Mayer to tie the game in the ninth minute. After a misfire on a clearing attempt, a Crusaders forward found himself with the ball 12 yards out, and he converted to the 2-1 lead. White Hawks junior goalie Mark Pederson-Carlson had a hand on the ball but could not prevent the goal.
Just a few moments later, the White Hawks starting goalie had to leave the field due to a yellow card after a foul and subsequent penalty kick. Senior Ethan Fetters-Vandenheuvel came in cold and to the rescue, as he made a spectacular save to keep his team in the game.
The slip-and-slide soccer game continued after the halftime break, and senior captain Andrew Abegglen scored the well-deserved equalizer in the 62nd minute. The White Hawks now breathed a sigh of relief and played loose, going for the win. After two shots that hit the goal post by ninth-grader Michael Doshan and junior Daniel Neve in the 65th and 67th minutes, it was yet another signature free kick from Abegglen that ended up being the winning goal in the 78th minute for the 3-2 final score in favor of the White Hawks.
Just two short days later, the White Hawks had their annual regular season match with the Orono Spartans, this time at Pesonen Stadium. Over the course of the 2018 season, the White Hawks played well on artificial turf fields in Jordan and Monticello. However, the turf in Orono gave them all kinds of trouble, as in years past.
Ball control was tough, and the midfield was never able to establish a rhythm. In the first half, it was almost exclusively a battle in midfield, with not many chances on either side. Keeper Fetters-Vandenheuvel was challenged only with a few half-chances. Doshan had the best chance just before halftime, as he chipped the ball over the goalie after receiving the ball on a cross from Godoy-Henderson. The goalie was beat, but a Spartans defender managed to clear the ball before it crossed the goal line.
The White Hawks were caught by surprise right at the start of the second half, as Orono scored the 1-0. The Spartans followed up with the 2-0 in the 46th minute after a turnover in midfield, and the White Hawks were now chasing. Orono defended well and, outside of a shot that hit the post in the 60th minute, not much more was noteworthy. MWHS was defeated 2-0.
The regular season final was played on Oct. 6 in Willmar – the only high school pitch in the conference where the game clock counts up as opposed to down (up is the way time is kept in the old world). It is always a very tough trip, as the Cardinals play a very different type of soccer. They are very physical and fast. Looking back at games in years past in Willmar, there always were some questionable referee decisions, and this game continued that frustrating tradition.
A clear penalty shot after a foul on Neve in the Willmar box was waved off by the referee in the 10th minute. The Cardinals played very tight in midfield. The White Hawks had some success over the right wing with runs by Neve and Godoy-Henderson that created a few half-chances, but the game remained scoreless after 40 minutes.
Coach Bellamy changed the lineup into a 3-5-2 formation at halftime – three defenders, five midfielders. The players on the wings are to help out on defense if needed but also have room to attack and support the offense. In this formation a team gives up manpower on defense but has an opportunity to have a number advantage on the other side if played right.
Senior Cole Kahmeyer played in this formation in his summer soccer sessions and understood what to do. He was seen all over the left side and had a fantastic second half. Senior Nico Phommahaxay and sophomore Jack Ryall complemented him on that side, and dangerous situations were in store for the Cardinals defense.
One of these attacks led to a corner in the 48th minute after a Ryall shot was saved by the Cardinals keeper. The ball bounced around in the box, and suddenly Ryall had another crack at scoring. He did not miss that time, and the White Hawks had the well-deserved lead. Subsequent chances by senior captains Nels Larson and Aidan Maloney were near misses.
Willmar tied the game on their lone good chance in the second half. No one felt responsible to cover the Cardinals attacker, who fired a hard shot from 16 yards in the 65th minute. There was no chance for a save. At the end of regulation and overtime the score remained tied at 1-1.
The White Hawks closed out the last week of the regular season 1-1-1. Overall, they ended up 12-3-1 and in second place in the highly competitive Wright County Conference. The overall performance was good enough for the No. 4 seed in Section 6A.
Playoff action starts on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 5 p.m. at home against the International School of Minnesota. If successful the White Hawks will host the winner of the Rockford-Delano game on Thursday, Oct. 11.
UPDATE 10.11. 18 – The White Hawks defeated ISM 3-0 in the opening round of Section 6A playoffs. They face Delano on Oct. 11 at home at 5 p.m. Delano defeated Rockford 3-1 in their playoff opener.
UPDATE 10.12.18 – The fourth-seeded White Hawks defeated fifth-seeded Delano 2-1 Thursday night to advance to the Section 6A semifinals. They move on to face the No. 1 seed, Holy Family, in an away contest Saturday, Oct. 13, at 11 a.m.