For the Antigo Times
The Antigo Red Robins soccer squads traveled to Minocqua on Tuesday, with the varsity falling 9-3 and the junior varsity squad shut down 9-0.
The JV team opened the evening’s action with a 5 p.m. match. They held strong in the first half, only down 2-0. Junior Izaiah Schmidt played keeper for JV, and did an excellent job, standing in for an injured Ben Lewandowski. But in second half play, Lakeland quickly took the wind out of Antigo’s sails and the match ended in a loss and final score of 9-0.
This evening’s play was the Robin’s fourth Great Northern Conference match of the season. Recapping previous varsity GNC play, in the first two GNC matches, versus Mosinee and Northland Pines, Antigo found little success, getting shut out 10-0 in both matches. But in Antigo’s third GNC match versus Medford, Antigo put up quite a fight rallying late, and scored four in the last 20 minutes, but still lost 11-5. That match set a Great Northern Conference record with the highest recorded total score of 16, with the previous being 14. That match also set an Antigo record, with the second most goals scored in a match by Antigo (5), the highest being seven, set in 2010.
And Tuesday night at Lakeland, in a 7 p.m. match under the lights, Antigo was able to recapture some of that same energy. Lakeland found the scoreboard first at just five minutes in. But that just energized Antigo, who continued to fight on, not allowing any more in the first half. For Antigo, sophomore Noah Samolinski started Antigo’s scoring at 24 minutes in, pushing fast up the field on a breakaway, challenging the keeper and pushing through to the net. Antigo continued to hold strong for the remainder of the first half, despite some Lakeland efforts in the last five minutes, with the first half ending tied 1-1.
Varsity coach Ben Wilhelm said “Our first half was amazing. That was the best half of play I’ve ever seen from any Antigo soccer team. On our 90 minute bus ride to the match, we spent some time talking about what we need to stop doing and what we need to start doing to be a winning team. That talk and that focus seemed to make a difference tonight, and we began to believe we could be successful. It was a remarkably huge contrast between tonight’s level of play and the previous night – two entirely different teams.”
Lakeland responded immediately in the second half by coming out very strong and scored two goals in the first five minutes. Nonetheless, Antigo held their heads high and was able to respond with a second goal. Junior Doug Dittel took a shot from the top of the box, which popped out of the keeper’s gloves. In a wild set of ricochets, Samolinski was there to collect the ball, and relayed it to freshman Brody Bunnell, who gave it one last touch to cross the goal line.
At about 10 minutes into the second half, Antigo made a goalie change. Luis Hernandez who had 21 saves up to that point, switched up to forward to energize Antigo’s offense. Junior Zach Reineke took his place in net, recording 9 saves across the remainder of the match. But as the half progressed, the Thunderbirds bled 4 more goals off of Antigo, putting the score at 8-2.
But at almost 80 minutes, as freshman Zander Aros was driving toward the goal, he was fouled in the box, which led to an Antigo penalty kick. Hernandez took the PK, and sunk it in the net on a quick ball on the ground and to the left, just past the keeper’s reach, putting the score at 8-3. Then in the final minute of the match, Lakeland earned a PK of their own and scored, putting the final score at 9-3.
Coach Wilhelm concluded by saying, “I’m quite proud of our work tonight. But as a team we agreed that this wasn’t good enough, and we cannot settle for losses. We need to improve and we will, and we are looking forward to the rest of this busy week of play.”
The Robins have a rest this evening and then continue their busy week on Thursday at at home versus Rhinelander, another Great Northern Conference opponent. At halftime on Thursday night, parents will be recognized and honored. Later this week, a home match versus Wausau Newman Catholic takes place on Friday and Antigo will host its home tournament on Saturday.