In an unusual early 10 am start in Bridgman this Saturday, the Watervliet boys soccer team started slow but worked hard to find their rhythm and eventually pull away to defeat a game Bridgman squad 5-1 to improve their overall record to 2-0-0.
Bridgman played a very heavy defensive strategy, packing 8 and 9 guys continually in their defensive end of the field, forgetting about their offense but making it hard for our guys to find space. Finally, in the 25th minute, Nathan Isbrecht took a feed from Brady Bornas and put it behind the keeper for a 1-0 lead. The rest of that half would remain the same and the Panthers were up 1-0 after the first 40 minutes. Andrew Fish (in his first ever varsity game as Keeper) made 3 saves and kept whatever came his way from getting in. Dominick Mandujano and Zeke Alvarado played outstanding defense in the first half, along with Ryan Knapp, Austin Wilmoth, Drew Van Lente and Andrew Chisek. This group shut down everything and continually moved the ball up the field.
Starting in the 2nd half, we made some adjustments. We put our starting Keeper Zach Hastings back in the goal (although he played very well in the field in the first half), moved Andrew C up to attacking midfield (from his usual defensive position) and tried to seize on what we thought was a tiring Bridgman team.
For the record, all kids are required to wear masks while playing. If any of you have tried this you will know it is not easy and sometimes difficult to catch your breath. We have to make numerous substitutions to allow kids to come to the sideline and breath. It is a challenge for all teams and one we are not immune to.
Although Bridgman tied the game in the 43rd minute off a weird bounce around our defense, our team didn’t panic and then settled in the dominate the rest of the half. Andrew C scored his first goal of the season 1 minute later (44th minute) off a nice feed from Nathan. Brennan Bornas then attacked their defense, forcing a push from behind in the penalty area notching a PK for the Panthers. Nathan stepped up and calmly deposited it into the net in the 51st minute for a 3-1 lead. In the 58th minute, in a highlight reel goal, Nathan took a corner free kick and Andrew Fish headed the ball out of the air into the corner off the net for his first career goal. What an impact he is already making for the team.
In the 59th minute, Brady took a nice feed from Nathan and used his left foot to score into the top corner of the net, making it 5-1 Panthers. This is where the game ended.
In a game where we were down 3 starters, the Panthers received outstanding contributions all around. Isaiah Brooks, Jacob Stibal, Jesus Garcia and Norberto Palacios all came in to give valuable minutes as subs and allow the starters to rest. All of them had moments where they made key plays both defensively and offensively.
All in all a great start to the season for our Panthers. Next game Monday at 6 in Constantine.