RED WING — The Big Nine Conference has been a challenge for the Red Wing boys' soccer team for years. Over a five-year span, the Wingers have one conference win — a 2-1 win over Rochester John Marshall in 2018. On Saturday, the Wingers not only added another win to that total, but also shut their opponent out.
Red Wing's 2-0 win over Albert Lea was a dominant performance for all 80 minutes. Each level of the Wingers' lineup played with an intensity and effort level that was obvious for those in attendance to see.
Forwards Nicolas Snouffer and Noah Morgan spearheaded an aggressive attack that resulted in numerous scoring chances. Snouffer in particular could often be found dribbling around seemingly aimless Albert Lea defenders, opening up shooting lanes for himself and teammates.
Snouffer and Morgan accounted for both of the Wingers goals. Snouffer scored his goal in the first half, while Morgan added one in the second half.
"With Nick, he’s got a lot of skill, he’s kind of a naturally gifted soccer player, but what separates him from the other guys that are naturally gifted is he is constantly working. It’s not just off the ball, it’s the balls at his feet — he’s working to beat guys, he’s looking at his teammates," Red Wing head boys' soccer coach Nate Weess said. "With his natural touches, he gets in the flow of things. His effort is tremendous. And Noah, those two match each other constantly."
Weess said the win over Albert Lea is a sign of the team's steady progress throughout their first five games of the season. The Wingers returned a team with a ton of experience in the midfield and attack. It was the defense that was expected to be a work in progress as they gained exposure at the varsity level.
Early on, the results from the inexperienced defense has been a mix of good and bad. Against Albert Lea, those defenders displayed all the signs of a group that was beginning to gain confidence in their skill and challenge opponents' attackers without letting them get behind for high-risk scoring chances.
"The guys are definitely progressing. One of our concentrations on defense is keeping things in front of us," Weess said. "We’ve asked our guys to clear a little more and not play around with it, not try and find a pass necessarily, but just get it into space. Let some of the guys that have been playing mid and forward with us for a while do what they need to do."
On Saturday, Albert Lea was unable to effectively get past the Red Wing defense. The few times that they did, the Wingers were on the ball quickly to challenge their opponents and take away good looks on net.
The signs that Red Wing was beginning to turn the corner appeared during their Sept. 10 game against Faribault. Although that game ended in a loss, the team played well and their confidence started to grow. With a conference win now under their belt, Red Wing's confidence is sure to grow more after a solid all-around team effort. For Weess, what the team does with this increased confidence for the remainder of the season is quite simple.
"There’s a couple of things we talked about — to not be so one dimensional. Let's build off that and get more guys involved, continue to play as a unit," he said. "I told them to never be satisfied."
Coincidentally, the last conference team the Wingers beat is their next opponent. Red Wing, 1-4, will travel to Rochester John Marshall on Tuesday. The Rockets also recorded their first win of the season on Saturday.