FORT JENNINGS — The Ottoville boys soccer team was on the lookout for a tie for the Putnam County League crown — with Kalida — when they visited the Fort Jennings Outdoor Soccer Complex on a brilliant but windy Tuesday afternoon.
The Big Green accomplished the mission with a 2-0 win, scoring both goals in the second half with the wind.
“These guys have come a long way. We were 4-3 at one point and have played very well since,” Ottoville mentor Eric Gerker noted. “We moved some people around position-wise and we also started to get healthy and that has made all the difference in the world. We only tied a good St. Marys team.”
For Musketeer coach Gregg Luthman, it was a great effort.
“We did some good things all match long, whether it was with the wind or against,” he explained. “We actually had some better opportunities, especially in the first half and early in the second, but we couldn’t get them in the net.”
Despite going against the wind in the second half, the Musketeers (7-8-1, 2-2-0 PCL) had some early opportunities. They were getting tries but the Big Green (11-3-1, 3-1-0) defenders were getting feet in the way, knocking the balls out of bounds but awarding corner kicks (5 in the second half, 6 for the match).
Even on those, the hosts were unable to take advantage and get clean looks at the goal.
The Green and Gold had a couple in the first 10 minutes (32:28 and 30:20) but well outside the 18-yard box, with Musketeer senior keeper Alex Vetter (5 saves) getting both stops.
However, the Green and Gold got on the board on a magnificent curling corner kick from sophomore Joel Beining. Booting it from the left side, the orb got up in the wind and perhaps with the setting sun also playing tricks, the keeper leapt for it but couldn’t get more than fingertips on it as the ball settled into the right side of the twine at 26:02.
Both teams’ defenses stood strong as very few shots on-goal were allowed (8 for Ottoville, 2 for Jennings).
The visitors got the big insurance tally at 20:55. Off a steal in the offensive third, senior Anthony Eickholt got possession and headed for the goal. His shot from 12 yards outside the right post went low and hard to the other side for the 2-0 edge.
The Orange and Black had its only real shot on-frame in the second half as junior Seth Ricker got a good look from the left post from 16 yards but it was deflected by a defender and then sophomore netminder Colin Bendele (2 saves) gobbled it up.
“We’ve been looking to maintain a good possession game and apply a lot of pressure to their defense. We felt if we could do that and keep the ball moving, it would result in a defensive breakdown,” Gerker added. “It also helps having a very quick kid up front like Anthony; he is such a blessing. He just made a great individual play. For us, we want to maintain our play as we finish the season and head into the tournament.”
The Big Green had a couple of shots on-goal in the first six minutes of the first half (37:05 by senior Austin Meyer and 34:20 by senior Dylan Klima) but Vetter stood up to the challenge.
After that, it was a battle for possession, for working to get open looks which were few and far between. Most of the tries were well wide of the frame.
The visitors had their only other shot in the first half at the 44-second mark as Beining’s header from 10 yards was denied.
“I’m so proud of the efforts of these guys today,” Luthman added. “Both the goals were simply some bad luck: I don’t think Alex has ever had that happen to him and he just missed knocking the ball away.”
Ottoville visits New Knoxville 5 p.m. Friday, while Fort Jennings awaits the New Knoxville/Lima Temple Christian winner in the first round of Division III sectionals.