By Nick Goralczyk
WINONA LAKE – They saw that going differently in their heads.
The Lakeland Christian soccer team played host to Tippecanoe Valley Thursday for Senior Night. What started out as a game all about LCA’s Trey Avey’s offensive prowess ended in a 3-3 tie following a stunning rally by the visiting Vikings.
Valley’s top defender, Arturo Dominguez, was out with an ankle injury and the senior’s absence was noticed immediately. Avey notched his first goal of the evening off an assist from Zeb Stills in the fifth minute of Thursday’s contest. The Cougars maintained control for most of the first half, not allowing Valley’s to get many looks on offense. Avey put his team up 2-0 before the half with a goal (29’) assisted by Nate Reimink. That score would hold going into the break.
In the opening minutes of the second half Avey completed his hat trick with a header, again on an assist from Reimink. It looked as if the second half was going to just be more of the same from the first half. But looks can be deceiving.
Valley slowly started to turn the tide and put more pressure on Cougar keeper David Plastow. The Vikings finally broke through thanks to a free kick from Christian Ramirez. The kick from Ramirez went to the top of the goal where Plastow deflected it. Valley’s Jonathan Ruiz was right there to head the ball in for the visitor’s first goal (59’) to make the score 3-1. Ruiz returned the favor just a few minutes later to set up a goal (63’) by Ramirez. LCA’s seemingly comfortable 3-0 lead had now dwindled to 3-2.
Caleb Petgen checked back into the game for the Vikings shortly after Ramirez’s goal. Valley head coach Andrew Luce looked at Petgen as he walked onto the field and simply said, “Make something happen.” Petgen answered the call.
Petgen took a beautiful assist from Carson Craft and slipped the ball by Plastow for the equalizer. With just 12:54 to play,Valley had climbed out of the 3-0 hole it dug itself.
“We have three main scorers and he (Petgen) is one of them,” Luce explained. “(Jonathan) Ruiz, who headed the goal to get us going is another and Christian Ramirez. Caleb is one of those key players that we know can find the net.”
Valley had three more good looks before time expired but could not find that fourth goal. LCA also struggled to find magic for a fourth time despite creating several chances in the closing minutes. Outside of Avey’s memorable performance, LCA lacked another attacker on offense.
But that is somewhat understandable as the Cougars were missing top scorer Brayden Lane. Lane, along with fellow senior key defender Josh Nakasone, are in quarantine due to COVID-19 but are expected to be back by the sectional tournament.
“I think we let down a little bit after we got up 3-0,” stated Cougar head coach Dan Miller. “Part of that might have been the maturity missing with some of our senior guys not out there tonight.”
LCA now has a six-game winless streak and sits at 5-4-4 on the season. The Cougars will remain without Lane and Nakasone but hope to break the streak Saturday at Rochester.
“Hopefully we can continue to use this opportunity for our younger guys,” Miller said. “We hope to have Josh and Brayden back the game before sectional, but hopefully this enables us to have these younger guys playing even more important roles than they have been already and continuing to step up.”
“We need to carry this over to Saturday,” Luce remarked. “We’re young and inexperienced. This group has driven me crazy all year because we have a great effort like today in the second half where we overcome a big deficit and other times we have long spurts where we don’t do anything.
“I’m encouraged by what I saw in the second half, we started 10 freshman and sophomores. We have a lot of inexperience but I’m encouraged.”
Valley moves 2-6-2 on the season and will play a double header in a tournament at Winamac this Saturday.