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De Pere Redbirds soccer sees big comeback win

By Tori Wittenbrock

Sports Reporter

Senior Captain Riley Nycz held down the midfield for his team in De Pere’s 4-2 comeback win against Sturgeon Bay on Tuesday, Sept. 5. Tori Wittenbrock photos

DE PERE – De Pere Redbird boys’ soccer had a slow start to their game on Tuesday, Sept. 5, going into the second half of their game trailing by two goals to the Sturgeon Bay Clippers.
Yet, a promising goal within the first 15 minutes of the second half changed up the momentum of the game, leading the Redbirds to an impressive comeback, scoring four unanswered goals.
“The boys just kept going and they didn’t stop. Their focus was always, ‘We gotta win, we gotta win,’ and that just kept building throughout the game, and I think that’s ultimately what got them the win,” said Head Coach Martin Valenzuela.
During the first few moments of the game, the Clippers primarily controlled the possession.
Defender Aiden Cartier found an opportunity in front of the Clippers net, though two defenders were able to disrupt his shot, causing it to fly just outside the frame of the goal.
Sturgeon Bay retaliated soon after by working the ball into De Pere’s box, playing a negative pass across the face of the net, but De Pere keeper Brayden Coyle came off his line and cleared it up the field.
The Redbirds offensive line saw James Dorchester cross the ball to set up Owen Fawcett for a one-touch shot that sailed just over the near-side crossbar in the 20th minute.
Midfielder Riley Nycz and outside back Charlie Tollefson worked well along the left sideline to get the ball up the field for the Redbirds throughout the first half, yet were unable to see success in the early minutes of the game.
Though both keepers were tested regularly in the first half, a shot by Sturgeon Bay’s Aldo Ringel in the lower left corner slid just past Coyle for a goal in the 28th minute, putting the Clippers ahead 1-0.
During the final four minutes of play in the first half, Sturgeon Bay was awarded 2 yellow cards for malicious slide tackles at half field.
Nycz said that there were a few big differences between his team’s play in the first and second half.
“I’d say mostly intensity [was the biggest difference]. Belief in ourselves. Those first few minutes we weren’t intense enough and when we got scored on those first few times we realized that we really had to pick it up because it just wasn’t good enough,” said Nycz.
“Once we made the adjustments that we needed to, it just clicked and the game completely changed.”
Coyle saw a lot of action near his net in the 44th minute, and ultimately the threat proved too much when a miscommunication between himself and his center back allowed Clipper’s Caden Clarks to intercept the ball and slide it into the net, increasing Sturgeon Bay’s lead to 2-0.
Fifteen minutes into the second half, the Redbirds seemed to find a rhythm and were able to change the momentum of the game in their favor.
Nycz brought down a ball from the air with his chest, playing it off to Dorchester for a low strike which ultimately led to a goal to begin the Redbirds’ comeback at 1-2.
After being pulled off the field for a quick three minute break, Dorchester made his return to the field in the 58th minute of play, again finding the back of the net within seconds after receiving a ball from a throw in, dribbling across the face of the net, and sliding it into the far post to even up the score.
Determined to not let up, the Redbirds continued to press high on offense until midfielder Madden Skurka rocketed a left-footed volley into the far post side of the net from inside the penalty box on an assist from Dorchester to take the lead in the 62nd minute.
Cartier did his part on defense, working the ball up from the midfield to the attacking third of the field and then winning a hard tackle in the 67th minute to force a Sturgeon Bay turnover.
The ball was slipped through the Clippers back line for a hard near post finish by Cartier in the 68th minute to secure the Redbirds victory, making the score 4-2.
Nycz said that as a captain and a senior, there are a few things that he is looking to see out of his team the rest of the season.
“Mostly, just that same intensity, never letting that drop during a game. Seeing that belief in ourselves that we are really able to compete with any team in the state,” said Nycz.
In the final minutes of the game, junior midfielder Henry Christiansen came off the bench, creating a spark for Redbirds offense, keeping them in it until the final whistle.
The final score of the game remained 4-2, allowing the Redbirds to see a promising comeback victory before heading into the regular season in the coming weeks.
“We had a couple of tough games at the beginning, but that growth that we are looking at during the game — like we saw today — it’s going to keep growing throughout the season,” said Valenzuela.
”We are heading into two big games this weekend against Graft and then Homestead, and after that it’s conference games, so I think once we hit those conference games I think we will be able to see that we are building from what we saw at the beginning of the season.”
The De Pere Redbirds next home game will be played on Tuesday, Sept. 12, against Pulaski at 6:30 p.m.

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