COLUMBUS — After winning its opening game of the season, the Wisconsin Dells soccer team has been mired in a three-game losing streak.
The Chiefs nearly got all the way out of that rut Tuesday night, only to surrender a goal just before the final horn in a 3-3 draw against Columbus in a Capitol Conference game at Columbus High School.
“I thought we played really good in the first half and held it just until the 87th minute,” Wisconsin Dells coach Ernesto Arias said. “We had a good opportunity and just didn’t put it in the net, but other than that we played good and our defense played good.”
Wisconsin Dells (0-1-1 Capitol, 1-3-1) held a majority of possession throughout and carried a 3-2 lead into the final 10 minutes. With time winding down, the Chiefs came close to taking a two-goal lead but it was the Cardinals (0-1-1, 3-7-3) who found the back of the net.
After turning away the Wisconsin Dells opportunity, the Cardinals moved the ball up field to Sal Genco deep in the Chiefs half. The junior forward did the rest from there, eluding a pair of Wisconsin Dells defenders and getting free for a shot just outside the 18-yard box.
Wisconsin Dells junior goalkeeper Ben Fish dove to make the save but the strike eluded him and found the bottom right corner to knot things at 3 with 88 minutes, 32 seconds played. After another Chiefs chance was thwarted in the waning seconds, Genco found himself with a chance to win the game at the horn, but his last second shot was parried away by Fish as the horn sounded.
Wisconsin Dells led 2-1 at halftime and quickly pushed its lead to 3-1 just before the hour mark. The two-goal cushion didn’t last long as Columbus scored with 63:15 played as the Cardinals struck quick off a restart.
Following an injury timeout, the Cardinals took a fast free kick and while Chiefs senior Braydon Blatchley cleared the initial pass, it fell right to Columbus senior Joah Schissel, who fired it into the right corner past Fish before Genco finished off the scoring.
“I don’t think we were kind of ready on defense after the foul and then on the third goal, I think the defense got a little tired in the back,” Arias said.
While the Cardinals got the last laugh, it was the Chiefs who struck first with a pair of goals in the opening half. After missing a pair of quality chances early on, sophomore Will Van Dinter gave the Chiefs the early 1-0 lead with 32:30 played.
After forcing a turnover just outside the Cardinals 18-yard box, Chiefs freshman Alejandro Salazar slipped Van Dinter into the box on a through ball and he coolly passed it into the upper left corner for the 1-0 lead.
Van Dinter then doubled the Chiefs lead after earning a penalty kick with 40:29 left. After being taken down inside the box, Van Dinter fired a shot past Cardinals junior goalkeeper Quinn Meinholz for a 2-0 cushion.
The lead didn’t last long however as Columbus cut into the lead just 64 seconds later as senior Joah Schissel lofted a shot over Fish off a pass from senior Walker Beitz to make it 2-1 with 41:33 played. Van Dinter finished with a pair of goals, while junior Guillermo Arias had the other score for the Chiefs and Fish tallied seven saves.
While it failed to stop the Cardinals in the end, the other major struggle for the Chiefs came on the offensive end. Along with dominating possession, Wisconsin Dells created a number of chances but was just unable to find the back of the net more often.
“With our speed, we had quite a few opportunities and we had some good runs. We got most of them in there, but we just didn’t finish at the net,” Arias said.
Even with settling for a draw, there were some positives for the Chiefs. After getting outscored 12-1 in its previous three matches, Wisconsin Dells scored three goals and along with strong possession, had great communication, thanks in part to a new formation according to Arias.
“This game was totally different from the three we just lost,” he said. “We just have to give a little push to the players and work on our finishing. I just think we’re going to stick with the same formation, same attitude and same plan.”
Wisconsin Dells 2 1 — 3
Columbus 1 2 — 3
First half: WD — Van Dinter (Salazar), 32:30; Van Dinter (pk), 40:29; Col — Schissel (Beitz), 41:33.
Second half: WD — Arias, 58:55; Col — Schissel, 63:15; Genco, 88:32.
Saves: WD (Fish) 7, Col (Meinholz) 9.