MARQUETTE - Coach Matt Tebo is learning to be patient as he tries to teach his Marquette Senior High School boys soccer team not to be so tentative.
He watched the metal goalposts take a heavier beating than the nylon nets Monday evening as the Redmen tied 1-1 in their home opener against Northland Pines High School of Eagle River, Wis.
While the twine was dented just twice all evening, MSHS (2-0-2) hit the goal post at least three times, twice in the game's final 10 minutes and the last time coming with about five seconds to go.
Marquette Senior High School’s Esten Potvin works to keep the ball inbounds during the first half against Northland Pines of Eagle River, Wis., at the Kauffman Sports Complex in Marquette on Tuesday. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)
"We knew we had them outmanned, since we had 22 players available and I think they only had 13," Tebo said. "We put some pressure on them because of that in the second half.
"But the point I made to our guys was that we wanted to make them work hard like that in the first half, too.
"(Northland Pines is) a good team. They were able to control the tempo of the game on our home field."
Tebo said his team's relative youth - the Redmen have two freshmen and six sophomores on the varsity - may have contributed to the slow start.
"Our play in the first half was unacceptable to me, I guess maybe the best way to describe it was tentative," Tebo said. "Our kids being so young, I think they want to get comfortable with what our opponents are doing before they begin to assert themselves."
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead about 16 minutes into the opening half with the first goal scored against Marquette this season.
It came on a penalty kick after a foul by the Redmen sophomore Mike Mlsna. He tried to stop a clear breakaway by NP senior Trevor Laszczkowski from behind and mistimed his tackle, entangling his feet instead of the ball.
"If he gets the ball instead, it's a great play," Tebo said.
Though it's one of the few high-percentage scoring plays in a generally low-scoring sport, MSHS goalie Tony Lackey was disappointed he didn't stop the kick by Eagles senior Dylan Weber from close range.
"I usually stop about 70 percent of those," he said.
Even in the first half, Marquette generally carried the play in the Eagles' zone. But on occasion, NP was able to boot the ball over the Redmen defense and get a striker or midfielder sprinting for Lackey.
But on all but one or two instances, sweepers like junior Craig Ekstrum and sophomore Esten Potvin managed to outrun their NP counterpart to break up the chance.
"Craig and Esten both made some really good plays out there," Tebo said, even with Ekstrum nursing a pair of sore ankles and dealing with illness after playing in the rain in Rhinelander, Wis., over the weekend.
"(Ekstrum) does a good job of cleaning up the garbage not only because he's so quick, but he's a smart player, too."
The first goal provided a bit of a wakeup call to the Redmen, though the first-half clock might have proved just as good an incentive.
With 1:39 left before intermission, striker Lehomm Pickard was in the penalty area and took a crisp, crossfield pass from sophomore center midfielder Hunter Shaneberger.
Pickard knocked the ball down, turned 90 degrees and immediately let a hard shot go into the net past NP goalie Evan Hartwig, the same goalie that shut out Marquette last August in the teams' scoreless tie in Marquette.
"Evan is our senior goalkeeper and he plays that way, he plays very well for us," NP coach Larry Favorite said. "He was under a lot of pressure in the second half, and he came up big for us."
Each goalie finished with seven saves, though the three shots off the post didn't count in the saves column for Hartwig.
Though he's just a freshman, Pickard has three goals and two assists in four games.
"The size of the guys and their speed are the biggest differences playing at this level," said Pickard, who was playing against middle school kids less than a year ago. "I used to always be the biggest one on the field and now I only come up to the shoulder on some of these guys."
Marquette is off until Saturday when it travels to the Petoskey Invitational for games against the host Northmen and Bloomfield Hills Lahser.
Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.