Boys’ soccer: ConVal overcomes first-half deficit to stay unbeaten

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

  • The ConVal boys' soccer team hosted Kearsarge on Friday. Staff photo by Ben Conant—

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/19/2019 10:50:14 AM

The ConVal boys’ soccer team found themselves in unfamiliar territory Friday afternoon, down in a two-goal hole at the half against visiting Kearsarge. When you’re in a hole that deep, the only way to get out is to dig deeper – and that’s just what the defending champions did.

The Cougars hadn’t been down 2-0 in a game in years; in fact, there have only been three games in the past two seasons where ConVal even gave up two goals. But Kearsarge scored twice in the first 15 minutes on Friday, on goals from Parker Root and Toby MacLeod, and ConVal’s undefeated season was in jeopardy. 

“We weren’t playing as hard as we could and it didn’t look good in the first half,” said ConVal senior captain Finn Wegmueller. “I think from our last game, we were kind of cocky about how this game was going to go. We kind of dominated that last game so we probably didn’t come in thinking that we were going to have a tough game.”

Making matters tougher for ConVal was the stellar play of Kearsarge senior keeper Seth Rutledge-Davis, who showed off everything in the toolbox in net. With ConVal at the doorstep, Rutledge-Davis made a diving one-handed save to his right, popped up and kick-saved the rebound. His steady play kept ConVal scoreless and down 2-0 at the half, quite a mountain to climb for a team averaging under two goals a game over their past six; it was up to ConVal head coach Josh Smith to inspire his boys with a rousing halftime speech. 

“The first half wasn’t really the team we’ve come to be over the last couple years,” Smith said. “In 2018 we were gritty, tough and resilient and we weren’t exhibiting those traits in the first half... I just talked about if we were going to be the team that we think we are, we have to show it now. We can’t just wait for another day and have letdowns in the first half, or at any part of the game, because teams can put us behind and then we could be in a hole that we have to dig out of.”

“He really inspired us to do better,” Wegmueller said. “At the beginning of the season we wrote our goals on a white board, and one of them was to be undefeated. We really didn’t want to give that up, so we really pushed in the second half. I knew I could go harder. Something changes mentally. I can’t really describe it, I just knew I could push harder. For every single ball, I went as hard as I could...It’s digging deeper than you think you can.”

Offensive dynamo Colby Knight spurred the Cougar comeback five minutes into the half when he found August Marshall for a header and ConVal’s first score of the game; two minutes later, Wegmueller assisted Taylor Burgess for the equalizer, and it was a whole new game. 

Trouble kept piling up for Kearsarge, as Rutledge-Davis went to the ground for another save and stayed down, eventually leaving with an injury and ceding the net to backup Travis Kane.

“Him coming out was absolutely a factor, and it was really unfortunate for them,” Wegmueller said, “because in the first half, he made some incredible saves that would have changed the game completely had they gone in.”

Kane played well, but ConVal had the momentum and kept the pressure on, tilting the field and scoring the go-ahead goal on a Trevor Faber assist to Knight and then adding an insurance tally, Knight to Wegmueller. 

“This was big for us because we haven’t scored more three goals in a game in a while,” Smith said, “so it was important to come out and put a really good half together, not just to come back and tie the game, but to win, and put it away…It was just a total team effort. Any time you’re down in a game 2-0, you’ve got to find a way to dig out of it. It’s not going to be one or two people with moments of brilliance, it’s going to be 11 guys, 13, 15, however many guys you go in off the bench.”

Mather Kipka had three saves in net for ConVal and kept the clock running down at the end of the game with handful of booming three-quarter-field punts, leaving Kearsarge watching the skies as the desperately sought their own comeback.

ConVal (12-0-1) is unbeaten at home since 2017 and is on a 25-game unbeaten streak, second in the state behind Division I champion Bedford, unbeaten in 30 straight. As good as they’ve looked in dominant 1-0 victories this season, there’s something to be said for clawing back into games, as the gritty 2018 championship team so often did.

 “You want to go through those,” Smith said. “You want to be tested, you want to deal with adversity, because that’s when you find out what kind of team you are.”

“I don’t think I’d really want our identity to be losing a game in the first half and then bringing it back,” Wegmueller said. “I’d like to be the dominant team. But I’d also like to be known as the team that doesn’t give up when they’re losing a game, I’d like to be known as the team that fights back no matter what, no matter how bad the score is in the first half, we’re not going to let it go, we’re going to keep fighting to the end.”

ConVal has Milford (8-3-3) at home for senior night at 6 p.m. Tuesday and then travels to No. 2 Lebanon (11-1) for a much-anticipated, twice-rescheduled rematch. 


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