|Fort Jennings blanks Van Wert by 5-0 score|
|Monday, September 09, 2013 12:07 AM|
By John Parent
Times Bulletin Sports Editor
VAN WERT– The Fort Jennings Musketeers got back to playing the kind of soccer they’re accustomed to playing when they visited the Van Wert Cougars on Saturday morning. The Musketeers won the non-conference affair by a 5-0 score.
Fort Jennings (3-3-1) applied pressure on the Cougar defenses early and often, consistently getting multiple attackers near the goal. It put Van Wert in a position where the defense was working hard to clear the ball but getting no open spaces to do so. That pressure ultimately led to a penalty kick for the Musketeers and sophomore Alex Berelsman found the net past the outstretched arms of Cougar goal keeper Matt Bidlack in the third minute.
Though Bidlack made a handful of impressive stops, including high-pointing the ball in front of the goal on a Fort Jennings corner kick just before a Musketeer player could get there for a would-be header, the more experienced Jennings roster kept firing away and found the net three times in the game’s first half.
With just under 29 minutes to go in the first, junior Mark Metzger broke ahead of the pack on a pass by Spencer Dray that got beyond a Cougar defender. Though Bidlack made a diving attempt to corral the ball, he was unable to control it and Metzger jumped over the Van Wert keeper and found the open net for the second goal of the game.
Berelsman was involved in the action throughout the contest, moving the ball efficiently to his teammates. A well-executed give-and-go with freshman Troy Ricker resulted in the third Musketeer score of the game, this one coming less than two minutes after Metzger’s goal.
The Cougars were forced into scramble mode for most of the half. With standout junior Brant Henry unable to play due to injury, midfielder Joe Lisa had to shoulder the load offensively. Though the Cougars made a couple of runs into Jennings territory in the opening half, it wasn’t until the 29-minute mark that Musketeer keeper Ryan Koester (1 save) even had to handle the ball.
The second half saw a better effort by the Cougar defense in keeping balls away from their net. Led by seniors Kyle Money and Joey Mooreland, Van Wert turned would-be Fort Jennings scoring chances into possessions for their own team, doing a solid job of challenging free balls and closing open spaces against attacking Musketeers.
That defensive effort eventually opened the door for a couple of scoring opportunities for the Cougars offense, with junior Jacob Williamson having an excellent chance when Lisa found him along the right side for a blast that was cradled by the Fort Jennings keeper, Alex Vetter (1 save).
Lisa himself would manage a pair of shots on goal, each one coming after a foul was called against the Musketeers. Each time, however, the keeper turned the attempt away. Despite the lack of scoring, Cougar head coach George Scott saw some good things from his offense in the second half.
“We told the guys to know your position and know your role and quit hanging on to the ball so long. Once we did that we were able to get the ball to the outside a little bit more and when we started doing those things we created some opportunities and even got a few shots on goal,” he noted.
The Musketeers fourth goal wasn’t much different than their second one. Metzger again broke free via a Berelsman pass and again avoided Bidlack’s diving attempt to save the ball, making the score 4-0 with just under 33 minutes to go in the game.
The final Jennings tally — in the 13th minute — came as a result of a great effort by the Musketeers. Metzger moved the ball through a pair of Cougars on his way to the net but was turned away by Bidlack (8 saves vs. 16 shots). The rebound stayed alive and wound up finding the foot of senior Garrett Berelsman, who got around the defense and find the net to close out the scoring.
For Musketeer head coach Gregg Luthman, the win represented a return to form for his squad.
“Our effort hadn’t been as good in the last couple of games. Before we came here, we had a team meeting and we talked about that effort. The kids here today stepped up and the kids who came in behind them stepped up and I think they all got the picture that we are not settling for anything,” Luthman explained.
The defense of the Fort Jennings squad suffocated Van Wert at nearly every opportunity, which is something that Luthman has preached to his team: “What our guys have to understand is that they have got to attack the ball and that there is someone there to support them. They have to put that pressure on, don’t let them breathe and we’ll take care of it if someone gets past you.”
That cohesiveness is something Luthman noted as missing from the past couple of games: “That’s what we weren’t doing in the three previous games was making sure our teammates were supporting each other, both on attack and defensively, and I thought they did a nice job today, putting that all together.”
Van Wert hosts Kenton 5 p.m. Tuesday, while the Musketeers host Miller City 5 p.m. Friday.