Sometimes all that’s needed is a little time off.
While the Logansport boys soccer team has had plenty of talent to work with, the Berries remained winless when they took the field against Muncie Central at Logan on Saturday. Logan coach Lynn Darlage knew what areas his Berries were struggling in, but with the team’s hectic game schedule, there was little time to address those problems in practice. Three practices, a couple small pointers, some subtle changes to the lineup, and the Berries were ready. They overwhelmed the Bearcats in the second half, taking a lead in the 68th minute of the game, and held off their North Central Conference rivals for the comeback win.
“It felt good to get that monkey off our back,” said Darlage. “This week we had three pretty good practices to focus on the little things, and we kept telling them to focus on the little things and they would win.
“It was a commitment. The kids that are committed to playing all the time, those are the ones that played today... Everybody wants to win, and nobody wanted to win more than these kids.”
One of the little things the Berries (1-7-1, 1-1 NCC) rehearsed was to spot the position of the goalkeeper inside the net before taking a shot. Logan’s strikers are capable of firing off some good shots, but many of these pitch directly into the hands of the goalie. That simple “look first” tactic paid off in Saturday’s win.
Logan’s winning goal, scored by forward Jose “Memo” Lopez, was the product of the kind of heads-up play Darlage had been trying to instill in his players throughout the week. Lopez dribbled from the wing up the middle toward the goal and was first challenged a few feet in front of the net. The defender sent the ball air-borne, and Lopez got free and got under it. That put him directly in front of Muncie Central (4-3-0) goalkeeper Josh Taulbee. Instead of grounding the ball, though, Lopez kneed a pretty shot in a steep arch over Taulbee’s head as the Logan sideline erupted.
“That was one of the little things we worked on,” said Darlage. “It seems so small and mundane, but he (Lopez) knew it was just him and the goalie, but he took a second to look at the goalie and he knew he could chip him. Too often we know it’s just us and the goalie, and we don’t look and kick right to the goalie.”
While Logan’s offense certainly deserves credit for the win, the Berries’ defense is what really shone in Saturday’s game. Reverting from the team’s new 3-4-3 formation to its old 4-4-2, Logan’s players looked comfortable in their roles. They overwhelmed the Bearcats on their side of the field, as Jake Darlage and Miguel Hernandez displayed some solid footwork to play it forward and keep Logan on the offensive. Hernandez made a nice save late in the first half, deflecting a relay off a corner kick that was aimed directly into Logan’s goal.
“Our midfield was stellar,” said Jake Darlage. “Our midfield had a good game. But it was pretty much an all-around effort. We picked it up.”
The score was blank until the last 18 minutes of the first half, when a flurry of shots was exchanged between the two teams in an eight-minute span.
Logan took its first lead on a header by Victor Stepanov, who was switched from inside midfield to outside mid before the game and thrived in his new position. Sophomore Justin Schlingoff, who had his first start at forward on Saturday, gave Stepanov some key assistance on the goal, dribbling to about 10 feet of the net and drawing a pair of defenders in the process before punting the ball in the air for Stepanov’s play. Muncie Central responded with two goals of its own in three minutes, however, to take a 2-1 Bearcat lead coming into the second half.
They didn’t keep it long.
Within 30 seconds of the second half, sophomore Edgar Casillas dribbled through a pair of defenders to score an unassisted goal and knot the score at 2-all. From then out, Logan’s midfield dominated possession to keep the ball out of Logan territory, and Armando Cervantes — who finished with nine saves for the day — did the rest, as the Berries allowed only three shots on goal and no Muncie Central points for the entire half. Logan’s offense, by contrast, mustered eight shots for the half, less than their 11 first-half shots but more effective, as they drilled two into the back of the Bearcats’ net.
The only Bearcat striker who didn’t seem overly flustered with Logan’s defense was midfield kicker Silas Stange, who scored both of Muncie Central’s goals at the game. Between the Berries’ heightened second-half pressure and his exhausting effort in the game’s first 40 minutes, however, Stange stayed silent in the second half, and Logan held on for the win.
“We tried to play an air ball, but he (Stange) was tired,” said Muncie Central coach Isidro Alvarado. “If we would have put it on the ground he would have done better — he’s better on the ground than in the air — and he was tired.”
The JV Berries won their game against Muncie Central as well, 3-1. Ben Vincent, Adam Gray and Brad Titus all scored goals in the game.
With all of their cylinders firing, Logan soccer seems poised for a fresh start. Coach Darlage says that his Berries will continue to work on the 3-4-3 formation and that there will continue to be competition for the starting spots. But now that they have gotten over the psychological hurdle of getting their first win, the Berries hope it’s a brand new day.
“What happened in the past doesn’t matter now,” said Logan midfielder Evan Wolfe. “It’s time to step up. It’s a new season.”
Sometimes all that’s needed is a little time off.