By Greg Bates
GREEN BAY – The seasons for the Green Bay Southwest and Ashwaubenon boys’ soccer teams haven’t gone as well as the coaches of each squad had hoped.
The Fox River Classic Conference foes came into their game Tuesday night with a combined five wins and 25 losses.
But players on both sides were amped for the contest and showed their excitement on the field.
What transpired was a match that both coaches were pleased about.
Host Green Bay Southwest mounted a 2-0 lead early in the second half, but a pair of goals 28 seconds apart by Ashwaubenon knotted the score.
Both teams had precious opportunities late to break the tie, but the game finished 2-2.
Not being able to decide a winner leaves more at stake next week when the teams face off in the opening round of the WIAA Division 2 playoffs.
“It was a hard-fought game,” Ashwaubenon Head Coach Ken Vaughn said. “The players didn’t give up and continued to fight. We allowed the goal in, but then we picked it back up. My players played well. They controlled most of the possessions. We’ve got a few things we need to clean up from ball movements.”
After the game was tied and there were still 29 minutes left in regulation, Southwest Head Coach Jay Draves said he was encouraged by how his players responded.
“It was good to see after we gave up the second (goal), the team pulled together,” he said. “We had a little huddle there to sort things out and get on the same page to regroup for the end of the match.”
Southwest (3-10-1) controlled play in the opening minutes.
Trojans captain Andrew Malmberg carried the ball close to the box and gave a nice touch pass to a streaking Keenan Cruz, who put the ball in the back of the net 6:10 into the game.
The Trojans scored their second goal at the 49-minute mark when Abdiwasa Ismail fed Malmberg.
He was all alone against Ashwaubenon goalkeeper Maverick VanLaanen and beat him to put Southwest up 2-0.
“You feel good up two, but with the momentum swings and them getting one back, 2-0 is always a dangerous lead.”
Ashwaubenon answered quickly as Dario Ferrusco scored at 51:42 in the second half.
Only 28 seconds later, Jaguars defenseman Carter Bona beat Southwest keeper Alonzo Frais to tie it 2-2.
“The first one picked up the team spirits, and then the second one, Carter Bona pressed in the middle, got the ball, fed it up and we were able to get a quick shot,” Vaughn said. “That got into their heads and frustrated them a bit. It’s always good to get the pressure, get the turnover and capitalize quickly on the turnover while they’re backpedaling.”
Draves said his players had a lapse in play that cost them.
“We checked out for a bit in that minute of getting two quick goals on us,” he said. “There was some celebration after going up two (goals) that mentality we weren’t as into it as we should have been. Other than that, I thought it was good both ways.”
Both teams had plenty of opportunities in the final one-third of the game, but both goalies came up with key stops.
“Looking at last year, we didn’t have a whole lot of competitive games, so being able to finish when the pressure’s on is different than taking those shots when it’s big one way or another,” Draves said. “Living through that and learning from is something that will help us going forward.”
Vaughn said having his team climb out of a two-goal deficit showed lots of positives.
“They believe in each other more and have more heart, which is always good to see,” he said. “Then when you get the payoffs, that helps build that continuous pressure and engagement from the whole team.”
The tie sets up an anticipated playoff showdown between the two teams.
No. 3-seeded Southwest will host No. 6-seeded Ashwaubenon Tuesday, Oct. 19, at 7 p.m.
“Both teams are going to take stuff out of this and make adjustments for a week later,” Draves said. “Being the higher seed come the playoffs, it probably gave them more motivation and fire to be playing for it. We’ll see, and we’ll have to adjust.”
Vaughn said to have his team in a good position in the playoff game, it needs to start fast.
“We started slow (tonight),” he said. “We’ve got to have the engagement. We’ve got to have the pressure right off the bat. We can’t wait until the second half and try to go hard for 40 minutes – we’ve got to go hard 80 minutes.”