BY MURRAY GLEFFE
DE PERE- The West De Pere Phantoms boys soccer season ended Tuesday evening with a loss (2-0) to the Kaukauna Ghosts in a WIAA Regional semi-final game. (Oct. 16)
The Phantoms were outshot by a total of 11-8 with Alex Woulf and Parker Nimmer each leading the way with four shots apiece.
West De Pere got off to a flying start with early shots on goal.
In the third minute, both Woulf and Nimmer had looks against the Ghosts goalkeeper, but each shot was corralled by Juan Molina.
In the 10th minute, the Phantoms had a corner kick opportunity sit right in front of the Kaukauna goal, but nobody could get a foot on the ball.
“We had three really good chances to open the game, “ said Tod Maki, West De Pere soccer coach. “If those go in, we grab the momentum early. Instead, they didn’t, and then they popped one in right after.”
Kaukauna capitalized in the 14th minute after Jose Garcia slipped past the Phantoms defense to beat Evan Rinke in the right corner of the net.
In the 23rd minute, Garcia was issued a yellow card for interfering with Rinke who was playing a shot in on goal.
The physicality of the game intensified as the contest went on.
Eight free kicks were issued by the center official in the subsequent 12 minutes of the first half.
“We knew they were calling a tight game and were letting the kids know to be smart and disciplined when going after a ball,” Maki said. “They were consistent about it, though.”
An indifferent sequence happened with just over 10 minutes remaining till halftime.
The officials came together with the coaches on the sidelines and it was explained that the center official had indeed strained his hamstring on the natural grass surface that both teams were playing on.
He mustered on and just before half Rinke made a key save to preserve a one goal deficit for the Phantoms after a bad turnover on the West De Pere half of the field.
Halftime was extended by 20 minutes as a replacement official was summoned by the WIAA to finish the contest.
Both teams stayed loose with extended warm ups but didn’t know how the second half would be called with different personnel on the field.
In the 48th minute after intermission, Nimmer scurried down the left part of the field and got off a left footed attempt on Molina, which was safely secured and cleared away for the Ghosts.
As the game wore on, the Phantoms midfielders and forwards were continually getting frustrated at not putting the ball through the Ghost’s net.
Later on, in the 57th minute with the Ghosts still up 1-0, Michael Turiff sent a beautiful cross to Woulf who just missed high of the cross bar.
Five minutes later, Kaukauna struck for their second goal of the night.
Manuel Garcia was camping out seven yards from the Phantoms goal when suddenly the ball appeared at his feet.
He calmly booted the ball past Rinke much to the dismay of the Phantoms fans and players.
“Our defense was having some problems clearing the ball,” Maki added. “You can’t hesitate near your own goal.”
With just over 10 minutes remaining in the game, defensemen Sawyer Grovogel boomed a 45 yard kick in that was majestically headed by Dillon Davidson which sailed just long.
The header was a microcosm of near misses for the Phantoms as the Ghosts went on to secure the game and advance to the WIAA regional final at Whitefish Bay.
What won’t be taken away is the fact that the West De Pere boys soccer team was the regular season champion in the Bay Conference and had 11 wins on the year (including a forfeit) which was the most since their 2013 campaign.
“This group of seniors will be missed and hard to replace,” said Maki. “Right now, I can’t really put into words what they’ve done for their school and community because the loss hurts. I hope our juniors and underclassmen will bring every ounce of energy to the field in 2019. We will need it to be as successful as this group was.”
Kaukauna 1, 1 2
West De Pere 0, 0 0