The Rhinelander boy’s soccer team opened up their season on Tuesday night, traveling to Ashland to battle the Oredockers. The last time these two teams met was last year in the Hodag Invitational in August. The contest ended in a 2-2 tie. This year the Hodags came into the game a little banged up and a bit undermanned due to some early injuries. In spite of that, Rhinelander maintained their composure, battling throughout in an intense back and forth game. In a matchup where one mistake could change the game, the Hodags fell to Ashland by a score of 1-0.
“We played a tough game,” said RHS soccer coach Dan Millot. “But this game showed we were lacking some depth. We came in a little banged up and it showed. Ashland had a lot of subs and cardio is a factor early in the season. We saw some positive things that we hope to build on.”
In a defensive struggle, both sides jockeyed for position, knowing the smallest details and steps could provide the key to the go ahead goal. While the Hodag defense managed to stave off much of the Oredocker attack, several key mistakes with twenty minutes in the second half led to Ashland’s only necessary goal.
“We had two mistakes on one play that cost us the goal,” explains Millot. “Our defense played great and Conar LaBelle had an awesome game in goal. This is what the preseason is for, working on things. We have the potential.”
The Hodag spent much of the game on defense, with several key offensive players missing during the action. But the future is bright for this boy’s soccer team. With several playmakers poised to return from injuries, this season should be extremely competitive. When asked who he sees in a position to step up and help lead this young team, Coach Millot quickly changed the focus to a more combined approach.
“The most important thing is that we approach every single game as a team,” he said. “We need to keep that mentality. The two captains Conar LaBelle and Ben Franson have been doing an awesome job and Eric Fabich has been showing leadership during practice as well. With time Nick Wright and Nate Tvedten should develop into leaders in the middle and top of the field.”
Following Tuesday’s performance the boy’s team returns to practice to continue to hone their skill set and conditioning. Up next for Rhinelander is the Hodag Invitational being held at the Hanson Lake Soccer Fields. The tournament begins on Friday but the host Hodags won’t play until Saturday, when they have a pair of contests scheduled. They will face Wausau West and then the team from Kingsford, Mich.
From there the Hodags head into their regular season with four consecutive GNC conference matchups on their schedule to start the year, the first three being home games. The Hodags kick off the 2012 season hosting Mosinee (Aug. 23), followed by Northland Pines (Aug. 28), and Lakeland (Aug. 30). Then they hit the road to play Medford (Sept. 6). Rhinelander concludes their road trip with a visit with the Golden Beavers (Sept. 7-8) for the Beaver Dam Invite which is a non-conference event.
The Hodags face a tough schedule and will have to stay healthy and play as a team, according to Coach Millot, in order to have a successful season. If they do, the Hodags hope to return to where they were just two short years ago, atop the GNC conference.