MOUNT HOREB — The field wasn’t as open for the Baraboo boys soccer team Thursday night.
The high-scoring Thunderbirds were locked down by Mount Horeb in a 4-0 loss to the Badger North Conference leaders.
“We had our opportunities but they were able to capitalize more,” Baraboo coach Tyler Lang said after the game. “I thought our game plan worked pretty well, but it’s hard to match their talent and organization for 90 minutes.
“It was a battle like I expected.”
Baraboo (11-3-1, 3-1-1 Badger North) had Mount Horeb (8-4-1, 5-0-0) on its heels in the opening minutes, showing the ball skills that allowed the T-Birds to average 4.8 goals per game through their first 14 games.
But the experienced Vikings weathered the early storm and began to tilt the field in their favor. They struck in the 12th minute, as Connor Long sent a pass to Gabriel Guenther near the top of the penalty box. The junior took a couple of touches and put it in the back of the net to give Mount Horeb a 1-0 lead.
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Baraboo’s early burst was extinguished, as Mount Horeb began to maintain possession and close quickly when the T-Birds had the ball. The Vikings extended their lead with a 31st-minute free kick. Nathan Steinl took the free kick from the right side of the field, bending it with his right foot onto the head of Gabe Piscitelli, who headed it in to give the Vikings a 2-0 lead at the 30:57 mark.
Mount Horeb carried the 2-0 lead into halftime, then doubled it in a second half that saw Baraboo press a bit in an attempt to create more scoring opportunities.
Baraboo goalkeeper Will Gunnell came out of his net to stop a fast break in the 62nd minute, but the T-Birds couldn’t keep the Vikings from adding insurance goals. Mount Horeb scored two goals in less than a minute, as Peter Cullen scored at 75:45 and Tyler Banfield scored at 76:06 to provide the final score of 4-0.
The Vikings, who had their streak of eight straight Badger North titles ended last season, have controlled the Badger North all year. They’re outscoring opponents 24-1 through five conference games, with the lone opposing goal coming in a 2-1 win over defending champion Waunakee on Sept. 24.
“They just made us get rid of it quick,” Lang said of what the Vikings did to slow Baraboo down. “Madison East did the same thing, so we’re going to have to adjust to that. ... A valuable learning experience.”
The T-Birds suffered their first loss since back-to-back defeats at Madison La Follette and Madison East on Sept. 3 and Sept. 5, respectively. Baraboo has been outscored 12-0 in its three losses while outscoring opponents 67-7 in the other 12 games, which includes a 2-2 tie against Sauk Prairie.
With two Badger North games remaining against Beaver Dam and Waunakee, Baraboo will need some help in order to win at least a share of the conference title. Either way, the T-Birds have something to play for, as they haven’t finished in the top three in the conference standings since going 2-2-1 to take third in 2013.
“We’ll dwell in it tonight and then move on,” Lang said of his team, which had entered the night with six straight shutouts. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve got to make sure we’re sharp, we stay healthy and we’re on the same page with what we’re trying to accomplish. I’m confident we can be successful in the playoffs.”