By Mike Deak
SYRACUSE – A long time ago, a wise man once remarked in the Northern Lakes Conference, you take a win any way you can get it.
While NorthWood boys soccer head coach Brad Duerksen would have rather left Syracuse with a highlight reel of material for the training grounds Wednesday, his team still headed home Tuesday night after a gritty 3-1 win over Wawasee.
“A win is a win. It was sloppy,” uttered Duerksen. “We’ve got to put together 80 minutes this year. We’ve put together 20 here or 30 there. Happy with the win, not real happy with the way we played. But, you know, sometimes you’ve gotta win games you don’t play your best at.”
It wasn’t as if Wawasee had dominated play and NorthWood scored a backdoor goal to escape with the point. The Panthers outshot the Warriors 10-5 in shots on target, but it’s opportunities were spread around without a flurry of pressure Duerksen mentioned he would have preferred to have seen.
The visitors did strike first, and did so on just the second shot taken in the contest. Kaden Newcomer carried the ball up the right flank and sent a through ball to Sebastian Guillen cutting into space near the 18. As the senior touched into view of the goal, his rocket of a shot went untouched top shelf for the early banger.
It was barely eight minutes later NorthWood struck again, this time on some clever work via a corner. On a ball sent to the back post off the service, Andre DeFreitas collected the bounding ball, and as Wawasee prepared for the NorthWood single season scoring leader to do what he does best, he sent the ball back to a waiting Chase Duerksen, who flicked his shot into the net for the conversion.
“We bring him up all the time because he is really good in the air,” Duerksen said of Chase Duerksen’s involvement in the second goal. “We try to target him on corners.”
Meanwhile, Wawasee had only one major chance of the half, a header from Jace Mishler that Andrew Graber had to punch away from the post early in the match.
Graber had looked like he was about to snuff out another Wawasee chance in the 51st minute, collecting a wayward through ball. But behind the play, Wawasee’s Ethan Carey was pulled down in the penalty area, drawing the whistle. Carey stepped to the dot and buried the chance, cutting the lead in half.
That naturally sparked Wawasee, which had Mishler nearly equalize on a similar header, his chance blocked off the line on a crossing ball. Wawasee’s Sylvester Trujillo kept the lead at one with a great save on the other end as Guillen was poised to strike again, but his shot was tipped aside in the 63rd.
Two minutes later, however, Guillen would add his second tally as DeFreitas drew Wawasee’s defenders over just enough to leave Guillen open on the other half of the penalty area, and the senior made good with some needed insurance.
“Their back line didn’t do much with the ball, they just cleared it forward and let the other guys do the work,” said Wawasee head coach Jordan Sharp. “Our guys needed to do a better job reading the play to shut that down. Those up top guys wore our back line out.”
Wawasee managed just five shots on frame in the match, Caleb Clevenger nearly banking one home on a free kick that caught Graber off the line but hit the crossbar square. Graber would make three saves in the contest, Trujillo would pull in seven shots.
NorthWood moves to 3-1-1 on the season, improving to 1-1-1 in the NLC. Wawasee falls to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference.
“Our guys looked rushed and weren’t able to stop play,” Sharp said. “We just were single speed and one-track mind and just continued to be predictable.”