Soccer can be so aggravating, just ask any head coach.
It was all West Holmes coach Dave Zimmerly could do to not come completely unglued as his Knights fell behind New Philadelphia (9-6) 2-0 in the game’s first 13 minutes.
But once his team began playing the way it was capable of playing, prospects got a lot brighter for the Knights. Yet despite creating a ton of great looks throughout the second half, the Quakers defense did the job in holding off West Holmes 2-1 in a tantalizing game.
“You can’t take anything for granted, and I don’t know if it was winning a few games in a row or what, but we came out and played with no discipline,” West Holmes coach Dave Zimmerly said. “The first few minutes of the game tonight were ridiculous, with the effort we gave. Then we spotted them that lead, and we came out and started to put things together, and we were a different team. But we can’t afford to play like that and put ourselves in a hole. The way we came out defensively was disappointing. We weren’t moving, we weren’t anticipating, we weren’t pressuring and we were diving at balls. It was not pretty.”
New Philadelphia’s Richard McEwan found the net early on, then found the feet of Quakers teammate Aiden Harr, and both players drilled shots past West Holmes keeper Drew Campbell, which is never an easy task.
“We were fortunate early on to get a couple of balls to fall, and then West Holmes settled down, and we settled down and we had a great soccer match the rest of the game,” New Philadelphia head coach Aaron Ramey said. “We have seen West Holmes play a couple of times, and we were impressed with their aggressive style of play. We knew what we would be facing tonight, and they did not disappoint. It was nice to see us come out aggressively and play well to get that lead.”
West Holmes seemed to finally settle in with about 12 minutes to play in the first half, and began to put together some better movement and passing combinations.
Six minutes into the second half, Teddy Oliver would strike a ball past Quakers keeper Josh Kaiser to draw West Holmes to within 2-1, and the game would pick up in intensity.
The Knights went into attack mode, and made life tough on the Quakers defense. But with every attack, the Quakers seemed to have an answer. Zach Buchanan belted a shot above the cross bar, and two direct kick opportunities came up empty for West Homes. Then with about 18 minutes to play, Knight Leonardo Calienno found himself face-to-face with Kaiser with a chance to score the equalizer. His shot missed the mark, caroming off Kaiser, and Buchanan’s attempt on the rebound sailed over the crossbar.
West Holmes’ frantic effort to score over the final 10 minutes added to the fever pitch, but the Quakers proved to be up to the task to seal the win.
West Holmes was thwarted on a number of aggressive attempts to get the equalizer by defender Storm Elsesser, who calmly lashed away a number of attacks in the middle of the field in the box in front of the Quakers goal. When the Knights did break through, they often didn’t hit their mark or the ball found its way into the hands of Kaiser.
Storm has really stepped up big,” Ramey said. “He has played a lot of big soccer for us, and we rely heavily on him to come through, and that showed tonight.”
For West Holmes, after getting above .500, they saw their record fall back to 7-7-1. Zimmerly said while he hates losing, it may have been a valuable lesson for his Knights as tournament time draws near.
“It was good for us to have someone hit us in the mouth like that, because it teaches us that we may not come back,” said Zimmerly. ‘We didn’t find the equalizer, and if we do this during the tournament, we are done.”
But the loss aside, Zimmerly said his team is playing very well after a sluggish start to the year.
Ramey said he too likes his team’s attitude right now, and he noted that several things are starting to click at the right time.
“We are playing the way we want to be playing here at the end of the year, so we are excited about the possibilities,” Ramey said.