When a soccer team that was 2-11 in conference the previous season ties the defending champion, it’s usually considered a win.
That’s how the Tomah Timberwolves embraced their 1-1 tie with Holmen at Veteran’s Field Thursday.
“It’s big − it feels like a win for us,” Conzemius said. “Everyone knows we’ve been struggling the past few years, and being able to draw with last year’s conference champ acknowledged the work they’ve been doing.”
Tomah took a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute on a goal by Jonah Nick assisted by Nate Boulton. Holmen tied the game seven minutes later and controlled most of the possession until the final 15 minutes.
The Vikings gave the Tomah defense a stiff test during the first four minutes of the second half, when the ball spent a lot of time in front of Tomah goalkeeper’s box.
“We know they like to start halves strong, and we expected an onslaught in that first 15 minutes,” Conzemius said. “We were able to close down the lanes Holmen was attacking through and weather their offensive storms. Once we thought they expended their energy, we thought we could take more risks going forward.”
After surviving Holmen’s best shot, Tomah managed to get the ball into the attacking zone during the final 15 minutes and nearly scored when a long throw-in got behind Holmen goalkeeper Matt Espelien and somehow deflected out of bounds.
It was a physical contest, and Conzemius said his team did a good job of initiating challenges and drawing foul calls.
“We talked about being a tougher team this year,” Conzemius said.
Conzemius said the Timberwolves got a remarkable effort from sophomore goalkeeper Dusty Derousseau, who is playing his first season of high school soccer. He came up with his biggest save in the 79th minute, when he stretched to get a fingertip on a ball that was heading toward the crossbar. Tomah cleared the ensuing corner kick to keep the game deadlocked.
Derousseau got credit for 15 saves, while Espelien had six.
“Dusty came up with some key saves in the right moments,” Conzemius said. “For a guy who has been playing soccer for about a week, he did a great job stepping up in a big game.”
Conzemius hopes the regular goalkeeper, Zach Jorgensen, can return for Tomah’s Sept. 10 contest at Onalaska. Jorgensen was injured in Tomah’s opening victory against La Crosse Aquinas, and Conzemius said the his return “will really boost our confidence.”
The tie snapped a string of three straight losses. The Timberwolves are 1-2-1 in the MVC and 1-3-1 overall.
Tomah’s next home match is Tuesday, Sept. 17 vs. La Crosse Central in a 5 p.m. start at Veterans Field.