Merrill downs Antigo boys soccer on Bluejays’ new turf
For the Antigo Times
On Monday night the Antigo boys soccer teams started out their week by traveling to Merrill for a non-conference match-up, losing 8-0 at the varsity level.
Both the varsity and junior varsity squad had a preview for these matches in preseason scrimmages a week earlier. Antigo’s JV squad started the action with a 5 p.m. match and came away with a 12-2 loss, but featured scores from sophomore Jake Peloquin and junior Izaiah Schmidt.
Matches were played on Merrill’s new artificial turf surface at their newly remodeled football complex.
“We planned to arrive early to try out the turf because most of our guys haven’t played on artificial turf before. We actually found the surface to be really consistent and enjoyable to play on, and I really thought Merrill’s new facility was excellent,” varsity coach Ben Wilhelm said.
Varsity play started at 7 p.m. under the lights. After seven minutes of play, Merrill’s initial swift attack proved too much and Antigo allowed two goals back to back. Antigo held strong for another ten minutes, but then allowed one more goal at the 17-minute mark.
Coach Ben Wilhelm later said, “I’m really proud of our players tonight. Even after we allowed some initial goals, our guys didn’t hang their heads, but continued to fight and hold Merrill scoreless for a significant stretch of the match.”
After allowing three goals initially, the Robins held the Bluejays scoreless for the remaining 28 minutes of the first half. With the halftime score at 3-0, a very manageable deficit, Antigo came out strong in the second half, holding Merrill scoreless for another 20 minutes (a combined 48 minutes continuous to that point). Junior Luis Hernandez, playing keeper, was instrumental to the Robins strength with 33 saves and an 80 percent save ratio.
Unfortunately, Antigo was also dealing with missing personnel due to injury.
“We had four players missing with injury or strain, and another two unavailable for other reasons,” Coach Wilhelm added. “We really had a skeleton crew and ended up using some JV players as subs – guys who had already played a full match just moments earlier. As we approached the 75th minute of play it became clear that we may not last as guys were showing signs of fatigue. I’m still very proud of our performance though. 3-0 at halftime and then 0-8 to close are respectable scores for our circumstances. Merrill was a worthy opponent, and I believe if we had been full strength we would have answered with some goals of our own and held them to a much lower score.”
Despite being shorthanded, in the last three minutes Antigo found the energy to try and offensively rally, first with a prime shot by freshman Zander Aros that hit the post but didn’t fully cross the goal line, and a short time later a direct kick from junior Zach Reienke that Merrill’s keeper blocked. In both attempts Antigo was unable to score with the match closing with a final score of 0-8.
The Robins play again Tuesday night at home for their first Great Northern Conference matchup versus visiting Mosinee, who should be a comparable opponent. JV and varsity matches will be played concurrently at 5 p.m. at Antigo High School’s Listle Field and the JV/practice field.