No shortage of excitement
MICHIGAN CITY — For those in attendance for the annual Michigan City Derby between the Wolves and Marquette on Saturday morning, a big save with two seconds left on the game clock wasn’t all that surprising, but brought out plenty of “oohs” from the crowd.
Liam Monroe’s last-second stop preserved a 1-1 draw in the match between the nearby rivals at Michigan City High School that had just about everything. Even Wolves coach David Harris tipped his proverbial cap to Monroe after the game.
“It was a great save. Props to the Marquette goalie there for sure,” Harris said.
There was no shortage of physicality, referee controversy, close calls and dramatic sequences in the draw.
“It’s the Michigan City Derby, so you know that’s always going to be the case,” Blazers coach A.J. Monroe said. “The boys know each other and it’s that in-town rivalry. I thought the referees did a good job managing the game and Coach [Harris] and I were working together to keep everything cool, so it was all good.”
The Blazers struck first with the game’s opening goal thanks to a strong effort on the right foot from senior forward Jon Beglin to give the visitors an early 1-0 advantage. Most of the first-half action was dominated by the Blazers, who had a fair share of chances to make it a two-goal lead throughout the first 40 minutes.
It took a while, but the Wolves finally started to find their footing late in the opening half with a long-distance chance from senior Riley Shreve and almost a couple A-plus chances for senior Erik Hultgren right outside of 10 minutes to play in the first half.
In the final 40 minutes, the Wolves seized control, using better link-up play through the middle of the field, and on the wings with stern defending, resulting in a flip of momentum of the contest.
“We stuck with what we want to do offensively; getting the ball wide, getting the ball in,” A.J. Monroe said. “Michigan City did a really good job of taking away our central midfielder Pat [Connelly] out of the game. Fortunately for us, we’re a little more dynamic than one dimensional. I was pleased with our recognition of realizing that’s what Michigan City was trying to take away and we stuck to some of the other things we’ve been working on in training.”
After a minor brouhaha between Blazers midfielder Gavin O’Halloran and Wolves midfielder Riley Buckler, the hosts settled down quickly and earned their best opportunity of the game, albeit with some controversy.
A long ball played down the middle appeared to be touched by Blazers junior Ian Baker on the arm, but play continued and Shreve took advantage with the ball in the 18-yard box all alone with Liam Monroe to level the match at 1-1. After a bit of a delay and discussion, a 20-yard free kick just outside of the box was given to the Wolves.
Wolves junior Omar Serrano, who had been brought off because of a left ankle injury earlier in the match, fired a rocket into the lower right corner for an equalizer with 30 minutes to play.
The action moved back-and-forth down the field, with neither team truly seizing control, but coming up with a few chances before the final whistle. The Wolves applied pressure inside of the final minute in their attacking third and a bouncing ball found its way towards the top of the box for a shot, but Monroe’s quick reaction saved the day in a way for the Blazers.
“We’re still kind of like, slotting people in different positions and trying to find the right chemistry,” Harris said. “You could tell in that first half when they got that scrappy goal, but for whatever reason in that second half, the guys were way more pumped up and we tried some more aggressive guys in the middle. You saw things change when we started winning those 50-50 balls and I thought we had it there at the last second, but it didn’t happen.”