With only four games left in the regular season, the Washington Catholic boys soccer team is trying to find its rhythm and identity — Tuesday night’s result was a big step forward in that department even if it didn’t result in a victory.
Washington Catholic (7-5-1) tied Forest Park 2-2 at Rees Field in a matchup with the only team to defeat the Cardinals last season.
With less than 10 minutes to play, the Cardinals found themselves trailing 2-1 to the Rangers and in need of a spark offensively — they found that spark in an unlikely spot. With just over seven minutes to play, senior Dylan Walker put a shot into the back of the net to pull the contest even at two. Walker — a first-year addition to the Cardinal soccer program was inserted into the starting lineup on a hunch from coach Wayne Neace.
“Tonight was his first start — he scored a key goal for us Saturday to put us up 4-2 against North Posey, “ Neace said. “We thought against a faster team like Forest Park that he might be able to do something out there. He’s not really good on the ball yet, and we’re trying to get him better, but he is so fast. We thought if we could get him in behind he could get a shot and it worked out.”
The Cardinals and Rangers were locked in a defensive battle for nearly the entire first half before junior Blaine Fuhs scored with just 95 seconds remaining in the first half to give Washington Catholic a 1-0 lead at halftime. The goal was another in a long line of plays this season when Fuhs has made something out of nothing.
“That was just Blaine (Fuhs) being creative,” Neace said.
Washington Catholic went into overtime with the lead and momentum, but Forest Park came out firing in the second half. 10 minutes into the second half, Forest Park’s Ben Englert moved the ball past Washington Catholic goaltender Jon Mitchell to the right of the goal and found Max Ricelman for an easy chip in to tie the game. 15 minutes later, Miles Recker fired a shot attempt past Mitchell and the Rangers had a 2-1 advantage.
“We made a couple mistakes on defense on the first goal,” Neace said. “We are still trying to find out identity, but James Brown played really well back there. They had some big fast guys and he shut them down on their fast breaks. I thought Brody Wilson really won the middle of the field for us. Jon Mitchell had some amazing saves, he must have had 20 saves tonight.”
Forest Park was the only team to defeat the Cardinals last season, and that win came in the first round of the Northeast Dubois Class A Sectional in the final game of the careers of Colton Reed, Brantley Smith and Christian Neace in a 3-2 decision. With as much firepower as the Cardinals have lost they were still up for the challenge Tuesday night.
“Overall I thought we played pretty well,” Neace said. “Forest Park is a good team — they didn’t lose much from last year as we did and we knew it was going to be a battle. Coming out of here with a tie, I am pretty happy with that.”