The 2019 WIAA soccer playoffs begin for the New Richmond boys on Tuesday. The Tigers proclaimed themselves playoff ready with a 4-0 homefield win over Chippewa Falls on Saturday.
With the win, the Tigers finish the regular season with a 17-2-1 record. The Tigers open the Division 2 playoffs on the New Richmond High School field Tuesday. The Tigers, seeded second, will host Tomah at 4 p.m. The winner of Tuesday’s game will play again on Saturday in the regional final.
Tiger coach Darian Blattner said the team went into Saturday’s game with specific goals, knowing that Chippewa Falls has struggled to score this season. One of the goals was “playing with width.” He said that involved “using the width of the field to our advantage,” designed to help the Tigers open up the field for more clean shots. He said another goal was work on set pieces, like corner kicks and free kicks.
The Tigers took charge in the game, scoring twice in the first 15 minutes. Senior Jovani Perez-Sanchez scored at the 9:25 mark off an assist from Caleb Armstrong. The Tigers scored again at 14:19, on a nice sequence of passes from Joe Casey to AJ Johnson to Michael Benedict for the score.
It took just 13 seconds for the Tigers to score in the second half. Casey fed the ball ahead to Johnson who scored on a breakaway. Johnson also scored the final goal, at 61:54 off an assist from Benedict.
Most of the last 30 minutes of the game was utilized by getting younger players into the game. Blattner said there’s no telling if the reserves can get into a game in the playoffs so the coaches wanted to give them extensive time in this game.
For much of that time, Johnson stayed in the game in the midfield. His sole purpose was to distribute the ball to the younger forwards, trying to get them a chance to score their first goal.
The shutout was the 11th of the season for the Tigers. In the Tigers 20 games, they’ve given up a total of 16 goals. The goalkeeper this season is senior Carter Melby. He’s had games when he’s been peppered with shots. Then there were games like Saturday, where he never touched the ball because the Tiger defense was so effective in keeping the ball away from the goal.
Melby said he does his best to stay focused, because the ball can end up charging toward him in a split second. Melby said the times he looks forward most are the one-on-one challenges he faces from opponents. He said in those instances he trusts that his training has given the instincts to make the correct play.
Melby and the Tiger defensive players communicate frequently during the game, as he works to use his vantage point to help them in their positioning.
“We have a good chemistry,” Melby said of his work with the defense.