VALPARAISO — Marquette boys soccer had all the momentum in the first 20 minutes of its 2-1 loss to Wheeler Tuesday night, but an accidental mistake proved costly.
With the Blazers up a goal early on, the Bearcats had their first legitimate scoring opportunity of the game in the 28th minute on a corner kick on the left side of the pitch. Special teams are always crucial in soccer, and proving they could stop Wheeler's early on could make a statement.
The Bearcats' forward delivered a beautiful cross into a teammate's head right in front of the goal, but the ball didn't hit his head square on. It faded off towards the side opposite of where Marquette goalkeeper Lee Kellom stood, but defenseman Vincent Pacheco stood there in position, ready to clear the ball.
Pacheco attempted to boot it away with his left foot, his non-dominant one, and mishit it a bit. The ball spun up and backwards off his cleat, knocking the top cross bar and ricocheting in for an own-goal to tie the game up.
"Yeah, I'm sure that changed the momentum a little bit," said Marquette coach Austin Cogdill. "There were moments that were better than others tonight. I don't know if (the own-goal) was necessarily the case, but the tone did shift at some point that half."
Over a half-hour of hard-fought, back-and-forth soccer followed, and no team seemed to have an edge. Wheeler was putting up more quality chances than Marquette was in that time span, however, and it proved to be the difference.
At the hour mark, the Bearcats' Ricky Langaricas was streaking down the field. Just before he ran past a Blazer defender, his teammate threaded a perfect ball to him wide open, point-blank in front of Kellom. A nice, finessed shot made its way to the back of the net, giving Wheeler a 2-1 lead. It held up to the end, as Marquette couldn't find an answer for the remaining 20 minutes.
"We just had trouble getting the ball to our feet," Cogdill said. "We just couldn't connect. That's really what did it for us."
Losing a game such as Tuesday's was a tough pill to swallow for the Blazer players, but they expected a tough game from the Bearcats going into it. The contest was going to be a hard-fought one regardless, and this one just didn't happen to go Marquette's way.
"Wheeler's always been a tough game for us," said Marquette captain Ian Baker, who had the Blazers' lone goal. "Last year, we beat them in penalty kicks. They've just always been a tough opponent for us. They've got a lot of guys that play really well together."
Marquette looks to get back on track just one day after its loss to the Bearcats, as it travels to Hebron today.
Wheeler 2, Marquette 1
Captain Ian Baker notched a goal for the Blazers.