NAPPANEE – Tippecanoe Valley got about three minutes to enjoy its first steps into the high school soccer world. NorthWood, serving as host to Valley’s first-ever high school soccer match Thursday afternoon, scored a goal less than 200 seconds into the match and never looked back in an 8-0 final.
The Panthers, playing in its first match of the season, were the far superior side. Firing off 15 shots in the first half and 34 total attempts in the game, the pressure brought on by the Panthers was much more than most of the Tippecanoe Valley defenders were prepared for in its maiden voyage. Juan Pantoja’s tally in the third minute was the only conversion NorthWood would get until the 14th minute, when Jaron Mullet tucked home his first goal of the night.
Pantoja got his second of the game in the 22nd minute on a smart touch of the ball outside the 18, sending a rocket home in the corner. As Valley’s defense was left throwing its collective hands in the air, the hammer had already come down.
“I said before the season I wasn’t worried about NorthWood, more that I was worried about getting 30 kids on the same page and to practice,” said Tippecanoe Valley head coach Mark Gordon. “We were shellshocked. I told them earlier this week, ‘Quality teams, you have to hold them 15-30 minutes, you can’t let them score. And they scored at the three-minute mark. And the deflation set in.
“But, we made some changes, and the second half looked a little bit better.”
Mullet picked up the hat trick with his second and third goals to open the second half, and a header by Pantoja careened off the post to a waiting Jerson Sanchez Baires for a goal. Lukas Aukerman and Baires wrapped up the scoring for the Panthers.
Mullet led NorthWood with six shots on goal.
Tippecanoe Valley, which had its struggles to organize in the defensive third, couldn’t get anything going on the offensive end. Ivan Santiago took Valley’s first shot attempt in the 26th minute, but sailed it well over the crossbar. Tippy’s only other chance came in the 73rd minute when Alexis Aguilar sent a shot well wide of the mark.
NorthWood’s Cody Cripe was credited with the clean slate without having to make a save. Valley’s Fabian Mar played well in net all things considered, making 10 saves before being subbed out in the 57th minute for Zachary Landis, who made six saves.
“There were a lot of things to be excited about today, just getting the season started, but a lot of things we need to work on,” said NorthWood head coach Brad Duerksen. NorthWood lost 13 seniors from last year’s squad. “Once we got going, some of the kids started getting goal crazy and we lost some focus. At halftime, we addressed that, and I thought the second half we played much more balanced soccer.”
NorthWood (1-0) continues its schedule Saturday at Angola.
Gordon wasn’t bothered much by the result in the grand scheme. His club’s jump into the Three Rivers Conference Monday against visiting Maconaquah, however, has his attention.
“The kids are excited about Monday,” Gordon said. “We’re excited to have this at home. It’s a conference game. It’s important conference-wise that we show up. It’s important for us to get some wins in conference to establish ourselves. I’m very excited for them to get that opening home game Monday, it will be fun.”