Not having a number of starters can make a big difference in a game.

The Wisconsin Dells soccer team found that out the hard way, as the Chiefs suffered a 4-1 loss to Columbus in a Capitol Conference game at Woodside Sports Complex last Tuesday. The Chiefs faced an uphill battle before the opening kick with seven players, including five starters, out due injuries and grade ineligibility.

“We had the main players on the bench and played with maybe half of the bench in the first half,” Wisconsin Dells coach Ernesto Arias said. “Today was less than a good game for the team.”

Making things worse for the Chiefs (4-7-1, 0-7-1 Capitol Conference) was the fact that the Cardinals jumped out to an early 3-0 lead. After Wisconsin Dells got off to a good start in the first five minutes, Columbus notched three goals in 11 minutes, 53 seconds, including a pair of scores off of Chiefs mistakes.

Sal Genco got things going for the Cardinals as the sophomore intercepted a goal kick by Wisconsin Dells freshman goalkeeper Angel Jaramillo and promptly put a shot into the top right corner for a 1-0 lead with 12 minutes, 9 seconds played. Later it was junior Jeromy Toutant who capitalized on a Chiefs mistake, stabbing home a loose ball off a Wisconsin Dells missed cross at 24:02 to make it 3-0.

The goals off of Wisconsin Dells (4-7-1, 0-7-1) errors sandwiched a nice bit of play from the Cardinals. After collecting a loose ball, Genco put a precision through ball to Toutant, who coolly slotted a shot underneath a charging Jaramillo at 16:16.

“They were keeping the pressure on us and once they scored those three goals, we had to play their game,” Arias said.

Trailing 3-0, Wisconsin Dells fought back and eventually cut the Cardinals lead to 3-1 just before halftime. The Chiefs came close three times-in-a-row, including a penalty kick that was saved by Columbus junior goalkeeper Joah Schissel, but they weren’t going to be denied a fourth.

Senior Nep Vitales took a through ball and darted into the 18-yard box, fending off a Cardinals tackle. The Chiefs forward nearly lost his balanced but stayed up and put a shot past Schissel at 42:07.

Wisconsin Dells feverishly tried to snare a second in the waning minutes of the first half but were held off. That pressure continued out of the break as the Chiefs came close to cutting the deficit to 3-2 early on in the final 45 minutes.

Within the opening five minutes of the second half, freshman Will Van Dinter ran his way into the 18-yard box and clanged a shot off the right post. Wisconsin Dells had a chance at a rebound, but the shot was easily caught by Schissel.

The Chiefs continued to pressure and were eventually awarded a second penalty kick with 73:26 played. Vitales stepped up to the spot but for a second time, Schissel stopped the spot kick and smothered the rebound before the Cardinals put the game out of reach with a fourth goal.

“In the end of the first half we tried harder and in the second we switched our formation and go more attacking players on top, but we just got tired in the back,” Arias said.

While the effort was there for the Chiefs, the mistakes on both sides of the ball were too much to overcome. For Arias, it was his team’s inability to mark and give up space in the defensive half, while offensively the pair of saved penalty kicks played a crucial role.

“Scoring those two penalty kicks would have made such a big difference,” he said. “It would have changed the game so much and we could have been tied.”

Along with the missed chances, Arias noted how crucial the seven missing players were.

“That made a huge difference; it could have been a win tonight,” he said. “We’re looking forward to getting them healthy this weekend and getting them eligible to play for Lakeside Lutheran next Tuesday.”

COLUMBUS 4, WISCONSIN DELLS 1

Columbus 3 1 — 4

Wisconsin Dells 1 0 — 1

First half: C — Genco, 12:09; Toutant (Genco), 16:16; Toutant, 24:02; WD — Vitales, 42:03.

Second half: C — Reetz, 83:41.

Saves: C (Schissel) 8, WD (Jaramillo) 5.

Follow Sean Davis on Twitter @SDavis_PDR.