The Panthers wrapped up the spring season with a 6-0-3 record, claiming the Wisconsin Spring Cup this past weekend. Assistant coach Ben Shepherd again took some time to catch us up on the happenings from the final two games on the spring schedule.
Sunday saw us make the short trip down to Valley Fields to compete in the Wisconsin Cup in two 70-minute matches, which was a fitting way to round out our first true spring season as a staff.
In the first game, we took on Marquette in the sixth annual Bob Summy Memorial Match and we have quickly learned that any time we play Marquette, there is a real rivalry and intensity to the game no matter the season.
The conditions were extremely difficult in the first half, as we played against a tornado-like wind which made it tough to get the ball down and play. And, in fairness, it was a scrappy half without too many incidents although Marquette was awarded a questionable penalty in the 28th minute which was put away well by Callum Mallace.
At half time, we were not too disheartened with our performance as we thought our guys had coped quite well with the conditions. We urged the boys to remain positive in the second half and have the belief, with the wind, to now get the ball down and play our way which we thought Marquette would really struggle to contain. We started the half well and really took the game to Marquette. Midway through the half, Ross Van Osdol delivered an excellent free kick from wide on the left, which Cody Banks rose well to head home; his seventh goal of the spring.
We continued to press forward and with four minutes remaining we were able to score the winner from the best move of the match, which involved some neat one-touch passing between Riley Weiner and Edison Crepso, which freed Van Osdol down the left wing. He delivered another excellent cross for Cody Banks to head home the winner as we saw out the remaining minutes to win the game 2-1.
Obviously it is always pleasing to beat a close rival and the way we played, especially in the second half in tough conditions, was the biggest positive to come out of the game. There were good performances from Van Osdol with two assists, Cody Banks with his two goals and John Shakon, who made two crucial saves while the game was tied at 1-1. Overall, it was a solid team performance, which helped us to get the result.
In the second game, we squared off against the University of Wisconsin, who beat Green Bay on penalties in their morning match. The relentless wind continued to make playing conditions tough, but credit must go to both sides who continued to try and still pass the ball and play attacking soccer. In the first half we again faced the wind, but dealt with it extremely well. We had most of the possession and play with Jamie Bladen and Cody Banks both going close to opening the scoring, but we went in at halftime tied 0-0.
In the second half, we continued to dominate the game and Riley Weiner was denied a goal by an excellent save from the Madison keeper and then moments later saw a header rebound off the post to safety. It seemed only a matter of time before we would break the deadlock, but, unfortunately the goal that our overall play deserved did not come and we headed to penalties for the second successive year to try and retain the Wisconsin Cup.
After missing our first penalty, John Shakon came up big for us, making two excellent saves, and we then scored our next four attempts which meant for the second-straight year, we earned the "Wisconsin Cup", which was a nice way to end the spring season.
As a staff we are happy with how things went and really feel that this group of players have developed and improved from the fall. Credit must go to all the players who have worked extremely hard, which has helped to make it a successful spring season where we remained unbeaten with a record of 6-0-3. Your support is, as always greatly appreciated, and now the hard work begins for the fall as we look to improve on last season and continue to take this program forward.
Thanks, have a great summer and we'll see you in August!!