For 39 minutes the Hiland Hawks boys soccer team played up to and beyond a Marlington opponent that their coaching staff believed was one of the better teams they would face this season. Then with one minute to play in the first half, a Dukes’ score catapulted Marlington into the lead, and it poured it on in the second half to cruise to a 4-1 win that evened Hiland’s record at 1-1.
It was a first half of very encouraging play as Hiland had the better of the Dukes, followed by moments in the second half that reminded Bodiker that his young and inexperienced team has some growing up to do.
“We were really good the first half, and we weren’t even terrible for large stretches of the second half,” Hiland head coach Scott Bodiker said. “We just have to learn how to be more consistent. We just don’t have enough varsity experience yet to finish plays offensively and on defense to keep our focus and play through a little bit of adversity.”
Hiland actually pressed the issue early in the game and controlled the tempo and the ball for much of the first half. Midway through the half Johnny Sisson broke loose for a pair of shots but came up empty, one on a nice save in the lower right corner by the Marlington keeper. Then Chris Miller broke free in the box but was tripped up, presenting the Hawks with a golden opportunity on a PK. However, Declan Howell’s low roller to the lower right corner was again knocked away by the Marlington keeper. Moments later Miller churned through two defenders and fired off a shot that ricocheted off the cross bar. Hiland could have really applied some pressure to a very good Marlington team but instead found itself locked at zeroes.
The score remained that way until 1:07 left when Marlington found the back of the neck to go into the locker room up one.
“Those late goals in the half are back-breakers, but we still felt like we controlled the ball well and won the first half,” Bodiker said.
Hiland pulled even several minutes into the second half when Cam Keim drove home the equalizer, but then the Dukes responded with a score to go back on top, and moments later they scored again. Suddenly the Hawks were looking at a two-goal deficit. With the lack of varsity experience, it was apparent that the air simply began oozing out of Hiland’s hopes, and when Marlington scored again with 15 minutes to play, it was over.
“It’s disappointing because if you were at this game, there is no way you’d say one team was three goals better than the other. Overall it was two fairly evenly matched teams,” Bodiker said. “We could have been up 2-0 before they ever got rolling, and that could have made a huge difference. That part was disappointing.”
One player who did excel during that first 40 minutes was Miller, a sophomore forward who can get after it. Over the years Bodiker has not used a lot of sophomores, but this is one instance where Miller proved he belonged by really pushing Marlington to contend with him.
“He needs to take confidence from that,” Bodiker said. “We are asking a lot out of several of our young guys this year, and there are going to be some bumps along the way.”
Bodiker said youth and inexperience are not a reason to provide excuses, and he also said Marlington’s team is going to win a lot of games this season and that his team shouldn’t read too much into this one contest.
“Even though the score might say otherwise, if we played them tomorrow night, it might be a game that we go out and win.”