By Brian Kalish
September 3, 2019
WAUSAU– After their Wisconsin Valley Conference tilt with Merrill on Tuesday afternoon, which resulted in a 3-1 victory for the Lumberjacks, Wausau East boys soccer coach Michael Jonson gathered his team together on the sideline to share some vital information.
“We’re tied for first place in the conference,” Jonson said, and his team erupted in enthusiastic cheers.
Sure, it was the first day of conference play and Jonson’s statement was more tongue-in-cheek than anything, but East’s 3-1 win over Merrill provided a glimpse of the Lumberjacks’ potential moving forward.
“Our record in the conference is 1-0,” Jonson said. “I was kind of joking with the boys, but it’s a great place to start.”
East took little time imposing their will on visiting Merrill.
The Lumberjacks drew first blood just nine minutes into the contest when Jeremiah Schroeder flashed some fancy footwork and found the back of the net to put the Lumberjacks up 1-0.
The importance of scoring first– particularly early in the contest– was not lost on Jonson.
“I don’t know what the stats are, but the stats show pretty clearly I think that the team that scores first almost always wins,” Jonson said. “So it’s always encouraging and a very good thing to see your team score the first goal, especially that early in the game.”
After Schroeder’s goal, it turned into the Alek Zavadoski show for the Lumberjacks.
Zavadoski, a sophomore, pounded home an unassisted goal at 32:15 to put the Lumberjacks up 2-0.
Zavadoski then dialed up a long distance rocket in the second half for his second goal of the game.
“The first one, I got a lucky bounce right in front of me and I saw a chance so I took it,” Zavadoski said. “That second shot, I just saw the defender turned around and ran backwards, so I was just like, I’ll keep carrying and look for it. I was just trying to get a shot on goal and it happened to go in.”
While Zavadoski helped do the heavy lifting on offense, it was a team effort on defense that shut the door on Merrill in the second half.
The Lumberjacks controlled possession and severely limited Merrill’s opportunities. It was a recipe for success.
“The plan was for use to keep everything in front of us,” Jonson said. “The guys kind of bought into that idea and they executed it very well.”
While it’s a long season and there’s still plenty of room for improvement, the Lumberjacks took a step forward on Tuesday and clearly have plenty of potential.
“I take away that we can play with anyone in the conference,” Jonson said. “We matched up against Merrill today. Merrill’s a good team. You’ve got to give them a lot of credit. They’re a physical team and we matched their physicality. So that’s what we’re going to take moving forward.”
9:27 WE Schroeder, assisted by Carter Cygan (1-0)
32:15 WE Zavadoski (2-0)
42:32 M Jacob Butler (2-1)
54:54 WE Zavadoski (3-1)