Tomah High School boys soccer coach Scott Conzemius wasn’t happy with the way his team started Tuesday, and he wasted no time letting them know it.
“They’ve traditionally started slow, and the 20-minute mark is when I normally start chirping, but I wasn’t going to wait for them to lose their focus,” Conzemius said. “I started chirping a little earlier.”
The strategy worked. Tomah seized the initiative and scored two goals in the second half to defeat La Crosse Aquinas in a Mississippi Valley Conference match at Veterans Field.
It was the Timberwolves’ second victory of the season, and it assures they won’t finish last in the MVC standings.
Conzemius was determined to light a fire under his team after it gave up back-to-back corner kicks and a dangerous free kick in the first 12 minutes. Tomah controlled the next 20 minutes and nearly scored when Tyler Torkelson sliced through a pair of Aquinas defenders and forced Blugolds goalkeeper Liam Kemp to make a punch save in the 23rd minute.
However, the Timberwolves skirted a disaster 10 minutes later. Tomah goalkeeper Nolan Stees punched away a shot after a short Aquinas free kick but was whistled for pushing an Aquinas player in the goalkeeper’s box, which set up a penalty kick. The kick struck the base of the left goalpost, and Tomah cleared the rebound to keep the match scoreless.
Conzemius said Tomah’s defense tightened up after that.
“We asked our defenders to stop marking no-man’s land, where there are forwards 10 yards away from them,” he said. “When you stop that early ball coming in, you can stop a lot of those penetrating attacks.”
Tomah finally broke the tie in the 70th minute, when Torkelson kicked home a straight-ahead shot in the goalkeeper’s box after a pass from Devin Gebhardt. Conzemius said he challenged his team to put more shots on goal.
“At halftime, we harped on the guys to take some tests − this goalie can make some saves, but he wasn’t super-confident from distance,” Conzemius said. “Tork just got a great shot off ... he took a touch, saw some space, and he just hit it.”
The Timberwolves put the contest away in the 87th minute, when Jayden LeQue jumped on a centering pass from Roland Hockstedler and booted a hard grounder past Kemp’s outstretched left hand for a 2-0 lead.
Both teams had plenty of scoring chances. Aquinas put 13 shots on goal to Tomah’s 21.
The victory boosted Tomah’s record to 2-11 in the MVC and 2-13 overall. Conzemius said it’s a meaningful victory for a young team that has just four seniors on the roster.
“It’s a huge morale thing,” Conzemius said. “Obviously we’ve been struggling this year ... it’s something we can build on for the future.”
It was Tomah’s final home match of the season and the final home game for seniors LeQue, Luke Grygleski, Noah Nick and Dawson Klump.
WIAA Division 2 tournament play begins with regional semifinal action Thursday, Oct. 19. The Timberwolves are likely to play their opening match on the road against an opponent to be determined.