By Colin Mather
Mound Westonka boys soccer team played its second game in a week against Delano on Oct. 7. The first encounter on Oct. 2 was the last regular season game for both teams. The White Hawks ended up losing that contest 1-2, giving them a final regular season record of 6-10.
The second encounter on Tuesday was the first round of Section playoffs. The first five minutes of the game was very cagey, with mostly long balls from both sides and no real chances. Junior Alex LaFortune had the White Hawks’ first chance of the half when he sent in a shot from the wing that hit the outside netting of the Delano goal. Delano went one better after 10 minutes of play when a cross from the right side hit the outside of the left post.
Immediately after that near goal, the White Hawks had a close chance when senior Alex Cortez took a long shot that dipped at the last second and almost grazed the cross bar. Cortez continued to be active and earned the White Hawks the first corner of the game at the 17 minute mark. However, the kick fell harmlessly on the edge of the penalty area and was cleared.
Delano had a great chance just a minute later when some tentative midfield defending led to a breakaway. Delano sent in a cross from the left wing, but senior captain Anders Larson chested the ball as it passed across the goal, causing it to go just wide of the post.
Senior captain Mitch Wanous set up Westonka’s best chance to that point when he surged forward but was fouled. The ensuing free kick by LaFortune dropped right into the danger zone, and junior Jordan Orenge was able to swing on a close range shot that went just wide before being called back for offside.
Delano responded again with their own best chance of the half when they broke through on the right side. Senior goalkeeper Corey Nelson was called into action with a diving save to deflect the shot across the goal to safety.
The last six minutes of the half saw the White Hawks with some sustained pressure on the Delano goal, and this eventually paid dividend when Wanous was fouled in the penalty area. LaFortune stepped up to take the ensuing penalty kick, and he calmly slotted home the first goal of the game into the right netting.
Delano leveled the tie early in the second half off of a free kick just outside the Westonka penalty area. Delano quickly shot the free kick before the White Hawks defense and goalie were settled. Westonka protested the goal, but as the ref had not indicated that the shot needed to wait for the whistle to be taken, the surprise shot was legal, and the goal stood.
At 1-1 the game entered a neutral phase where neither team could break free. Coordinated team defensive play from both sides led to several offside calls, which stopped a number of promising attacks in their tracks. Both teams also traded injuries, which also slowed the momentum. Senior captain Caleb Vandenheuvel was one of the victims, but he was thankfully able to walk off the field and was not seriously injured.
Things livened up around the midpoint of the half. Larson saved one good Delano attempt when he raced back for a sliding tackle. Nelson was again called into action as he grabbed a cross/shot from the Delano right wing.
The White Hawks finally got the breakthrough with 15 minutes to go. Wanous punted forward a mid-range pass that bounced favorably for junior Colton Jones. Jones continued his great goal scoring form for the season and patiently slotted the ball on the ground past the goalie’s legs.
The heat was then turned up by both sides, and the teams traded good chances with 11 minutes to go. Nelson calmly gathered Delano’s chance, and Orenge shot a half chance right at Delano’s goalie. The final minutes saw some heroic defending; notably by Wanous, who raced back to force a breakaway out for a corner.
Nelson saved his team once again with five minutes to go, when a defensive miscue let through Delano for an open shot. Nelson grabbed it cleanly as the shot whistled in. Wanous had the final great play of the game as he put in a crunching tackle to stop Delano’s final attack.
The White Hawks were worthy winners, 2-1, avenging their loss one week earlier, and allowing them to savor a playoff victory for the first time in several seasons.
UPDATE: The No. 9-seeded White Hawks fell to No. 1 Breck 2-4 in the second round of playoffs on Thursday, Oct. 9