That is how Ripon High School head boys’ soccer coach Steve Nankervis described his team’s contest against Wayland Academy yesterday (Wednesday) at Ingalls Field.
The game, which resulted in a 1-1 tie, featured 32 free kicks and five yellow cards. Much of the action took place between the 20-yard lines and there weren’t many quality shots.
“For the boys to stay in it mentally that way and not get physically taken out of the game was huge for us,” Nankervis said, noting the mental and physical toughness says a lot about the Tigers progressing three games into the season and will be needed when they play teams like Waupun and WLA.
Wayland Academy got on the board first in the 32nd minute, when one of their players took a nice pass from a midfielder, beat a defender and was able to get the ball past the goalkeeper and bury it to the far post. Ripon (0-1-2 overall) wasted no time responding as it scored the equalizing goal a minute and a half later on a kick from about 22-yards out by junior Adam Banerjee.
According to Nankervis, it was a “unique goal” that he’s “never seen one like that before.”
“The keeper went up to make the save and, basically, it looked like he just had weak wrists, where he went to go catch the ball and it went to his wrist and there was enough topspin on it that it went over his hands and then spun, hit the ground and went to the back of the net,” Nankervis said.
After the Tigers were able to get that equalizer around the 34th minute, the Ripon head coach noted they “dug down deep” and played “a really good defensive game” with “a lot better communication defensively and grittiness as far as sticking in it.” This was despite them playing a team that Nankervis described as having “a little bit more skill than we did.”
Ripon’s “grittiness” allowed it to out-shoot the Big Red in total shots 12-7 and shots on goal 5-3. It allowed Wayland Academy just two shots in the second half after giving up five in the first half.
Meanwhile, the Tigers attempted seven shots in the final 45 minutes, but struggled to capitalize.
"We're still trying to figure out how to finish properly,” Nankervis said. “Looking at those seven shots in the second half, there were literally three where we're within probably 10 yards of the goal mouth and the boys just over kicked and skyed the ball over the top of the goal. We still need to work some more on our finishing touch, especially when we stay inside the box. That'll be something my assistant [Jordan Whitrock] and I will focus on here at our next practice."
Wayland Academy did hold an edge in time of possession as it had the ball for around 52 minutes, while the Tigers controlled the ball for around 44 minutes.
Late goal dooms Ripon in loss to Clintonville
For the second-straight game, a mental defensive lapse in the latter stages proved to be the difference for the Tigers as they lost to the Clintonville Truckers 1-0 Tuesday at Ingalls Field.
A bad throw-in by Ripon on Clintonville’s side of the field around the 76th minute gave the Truckers the ball and they made two passes and were able to beat goalkeeper Liam Gilfillan one-on-one far post.
In their previous game a week earlier against Campbellsport, a 1-1 tie, the Tigers allowed a goal in the 87th minute when they missed a clearance due to miscommunication and let an attacker in backside.
Making the late goal more frustrating for Nankervis was that the Ripon head coach noted the game should have been over in the first half as the Tigers probably had eight shots within six yards of the goal and they kicked the ball over it.
"That first half, we had great looks, but again, it was finishing that let us down,” he said. “... That's our problem is not being able to finish right in front of the goal.”
Ripon finished with 19 total shots, but only seven of them were on goal. The Truckers, meanwhile, took 10 shots with five of them being on goal. Gilfillan saved four of those five shots on goal.
Ripon will play another physical team Saturday, when it hits the road for the first time of the season to face the Waupun Warriors. The game is slated to kick off at 10 a.m.