The Sauk Prairie boys soccer team has gotten used to playing low-scoring games over last couple years. It paid off on Sept. 7, as the Eagles played DeForest to a 0-0 tie in a Badger North Conference game at Sauk Prairie High School.
“I thought we played really well,” Sauk Prairie coach Trevor Van Laanen said. “Our energy level was really good all game. I think we deserved a better result, 75 percent of the game was played on their half of the field, we had a couple of shot opportunities, some really good looks, but just couldn’t find the back of the net.”
Van Laanen said that the Eagles got solid play from veterans like Allan Brickl in the back, but a couple of newcomers have filled in well thus far.
“The guys that I think are stepping up the most right now are Blake Gibbs, he’s a sophomore, and P.J. Lane, a guy who had to step in due to injury,” Van Laanen said. “Those two guys played really well tonight. This is P.J.’s first conference game that he’s played in in his high school career, so I’m sure he had some nerves to work through, but defensively held up really well. And Blake Gibbs is just a young kid who’s going to be a solid defender the next couple years.”
Sauk Prairie finished with seven shots on goal, while Riley Jelinek made two saves for the Eagles.
On the other side of the ball, Sauk Prairie created chances but failed to convert.
“We’ve got some work to do, this is probably the best team that we’ve seen to date,” Van Laanen said of DeForest, noting that Brookfield East was right on that level. “As we continue to play more teams like this, we’ll figure out how to score more goals. We’ve got the talent, we’ve got guys in the right position and we’re getting opportunities. Even against good teams, we’re playing a lot of soccer on their half of the field. As we do play the better competition, these guys will get better and that will be better for our program.”
Most of Sauk Prairie’s scoring opportunities have come through the middle of the field this year, something that has allowed guys like Juan Herrera Jr. and Evan Carlson to find the back of the net.
“We always kind of control the middle, we have every game so far this year,” Van Laanen said. “The biggest thing is we’ve got to dribble-penetrate because we’ve got to get the double team off of Juan. We’ve got to get him into space and allow him to create opportunities on his own, but it’s difficult when they’ve got two guys draped on him.”
The loss moved the Eagles to 0-1-1 in Badger North play, leaving them in decent position to defend their conference title.
“It would have been great if we could have won, but a loss really stops our chances from winning a conference championship again,” Van Laanen said of the Eagles, who have won three straight conference titles. “Having a tie, we still kind of control our own fate. It we can win it, then we can win the conference.”
The Eagles split a pair of games at Woodside Sports Complex over the weekend, earning a 7-0 win over Wrightstown on Friday before suffering a 4-2 loss to Milwaukee Pius XI on Saturday.
At 7-2-2 on the season, Sauk Prairie checked in at 10th in Division 2 in the latest Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association rankings.
“I think that’s our best start in my three years being here, as far as wins and losses go,” Van Laanen said after the DeForest game. “We kind of talked about at the beginning of the season that 11 wins is what we’re shooting for. We’re already halfway there, so that’s really exciting.”
The Eagles will visit Beaver Dam on Tuesday before hosting Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld on Thursday.
SAUK PRAIRIE 0, DEFOREST 0
Saves: DF 7; SP (Jelinek) 2.