Hiland knew it had to be very good to beat an always competitive Western Reserve Pioneers team on the turf field at Western Reserve Academy in Hudson Saturday, Sept. 10.
They would need to give a great effort, and have some good fortune come their way. They were hoping the good fortune would be the gigantic wind that blew south to north at a pretty high rate of speed.
But Hiland didn’t take advantage of the wind direction in the first half, and fell to the Pioneers 2-0 to fall to 2-2-1 on the campaign, while Western Reserve improved to 4-1-2.
“We just weren’t good enough today,” said Hiland coach Scott Bodiker. “That was another test failed. We are 0-3 against good teams this year, but I have no doubt that this team can be a very good soccer team.”
The Pioneers looked inspired early and throughout the contest, beating Hiland to free balls and making some impressive passing combinations.
“That was easily the best we have moved and passed the ball this season,” said Pioneers coach Herb Haller.
With the big wind blowing, Bodiker said they decided to take the wind at their backs to open the first half, hoping to use it to build a lead and fall back on their defense when it came time to switch sides at the half. He said the wind could have stopped or the impending massive front might move in and make scoring even tougher as the game progressed.
It didn’t happen like he had hoped.
Instead, the Pioneers moved the ball expertly down the field, crossed it twice in front of the Hiland goal and got a relatively unchallenged goal just three minutes into the contest. Instead of being ahead with the winds at their backs, Hiland was surprisingly down one.
“Getting that opening goal that quickly, when we were going into that stiff of a wind was a major plus,” said Haller. “I thought that kind of shocked them.”
“That was huge,” said Bodiker. “We took the wind to get off to a good start, and instead that happens, and that was disheartening. We were hoping to play in their end a lot in the first half, and it just didn’t happen.”
The Hawks nearly answered, but Derek Miller’s bullet was deflected wide. Another head shot went over the cross bar, and Hiland was left with the one goal deficit. Hiland didn’t get many opportunities with the wind at their back, and went to the half trailing 1-0.
It stayed that way until half way through the second half, when the Pioneers found the goal again, this time getting behind the Hiland defense for a good look.
Now down 2-0, Hiland was fighting into the stiff breeze, making a comeback even tougher. The Hawks began a late assault, trying to get back in, but Tyson Gingerich’s header banged off the cross bar, and the follow-up shot was immediately knocked away by a Pioneers defender.
Western Reserve continued to make crisp passes, and didn’t allow the Hawks any more good looks the rest of the way out.
For most of the game, the Pioneers simply looked like they wanted this one a little more than did Hiland. The Hawks played pensively much of the time, and were often beaten to balls out of sheer desire.
“When you play better teams with better soccer players, they see stuff coming, and the kinds of things you can get away with against lesser teams you can’t get away with in games like this,” said Bodiker. “We didn’t pass very well, we were too slow with our decision making, we were slow to the ball and we had too much holding on to the ball instead of moving it.”
Bodiker said that even the changes they talked about making at the half never really happened on the field, which was frustrating.
“We continued to do the exact same things we did in the first half without making any kind of adjustments,” said Bodiker. “That was very disappointing, especially since we have so many seniors with experience. We just failed to make the adjustments we wanted to.”
Bodiker even implemented a little different attack the final 15 minutes, hoping to generate some offense, but that too came up shy of success.
“Our starters didn’t play very well today, and our bench didn’t give us a whole lot of energy to change it up. They kind of made us look like we weren’t giving a very good effort. That is a good (Western Reserve) team, but that was definitely a winnable game for us under the right circumstances. Today, that was just not it.”