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Lackluster defense marks the end

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Photo by Walter Sprague/NLJ Colter Christensen sprints to try to beat a Bison defender to the ball in the Dogies’ final soccer game of the season Friday against Buffalo.
Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

The Newcastle High School Dogies went into last week knowing they were in a must-win situation against Douglas and Buffalo if they were to have a chance of making it to the state tournament. Unfortunately, the Douglas Bearcats derailed the team’s goals when they defeated head coach Sally Hoover’s crew 4-0 in Converse County on Tuesday, then the Bison drove the final nail into the Dogies’ coffin when they got the better of them 3-0 in Newcastle on Friday.

“Low numbers, and high winds were difficult for us to deal with on Tuesday in Douglas,” Hoover began. “And then we just came out flat and let things get away from us in the first half.”

The wind was definitely a factor for both Douglas and Newcastle as it was measuring 30 mph sustained, and gusting up to 50 mph. As a result, the ball was blown off course often throughout the game.

“It wasn’t super cold, but it was really hard to play soccer in,” Hoover said. “The wind was coming at an angle, which made it difficult to manage.”

In the first half, the Dogies opted to play with the wind, hoping to give themselves the upper hand early. Unfortunately, an uncharacteristic lackluster defense by Newcastle allowed the Bearcats to knock two into the goal by the time 20 minutes had come off the clock.

“The boys just came out really, really flat, which was disappointing for us,” Hoover said. “It almost looked like they were standing and watching other people play the game sometimes.”

Douglas put the ball into the back of the net with six minutes off the clock in the first half. Keeper Will Beastrom eyed the trajectory of the ball, and determining that it wasn’t a threat, didn’t make a big move to stop the ball. Unfortunately, the wind had other ideas, and changed the course of the ball’s path allowing it to bounce off the far post of the goal and into the back of the net, giving the Bearcats the 1-0 lead.

At 20 minutes in, another mistake by the defensive line allowed Douglas an easy goal to go up 2-0.

“Those first two goals just really showed how flat we were playing,” Hoover said, sighing. “If we had played like we normally do, it could have changed the whole trajectory of the game.”

Goal number three for ‘Cats came as a result of a penalty kick, which was a questionable call at best. However, with 10 minutes remaining in the half, Douglas went up 3-0 and they took that lead into the half-time break.

“We only had one sub, and playing in that kind of wind is just exhausting,” Hoover admitted. “But, we made things worse by playing flat and kind of standing around.”

The Dogies stepped up their intensity and played hard in the second half to hold the Bearcats to just one more goal, which was a well-played ball by Douglas. Newcastle struggled to get their own shots on goal due to the defensive nature of play by the ‘Cats.

With the loss, the Dogies knew that any hope for a state berth was gone, so they faced the challenge of getting up for the contest against the Bison on Friday.

“It’s really hard, especially for the seniors, to get hyped for that game when they know that it doesn’t matter whether they win or lose,” Hoover said. “So I was really proud of how the guys came out and played hard, and had a fantastic first half!”

With zero subs for this game, and with the Bison game strategy of launching balls down-field, which made Newcastle chase them down, fatigue would eventually become a factor for the Dogies.

For the first 40 minutes of play, the Dogies battled the Bison and went into half-time in the contest with the score being 0-0.

“We went out in the second half with the same plan of playing hard and not giving up a goal in the first five minutes,” Hoover explained. “But, less than a minute in, they ran a ball past us to score the first goal of the contest.”

With 23 minutes to play, the Bison had a corner kick which a player headed into the goal, then, with 17 to play, they scored the final goal of the game to take the 3-0 win.

“You could tell that we were just tired at that point,” Hoover said. “We did manage to get seven shots on goal, and we made some good runs, but we ran out of gas.”

Hoover admitted that it was a little disappointing to end the season the way her team did, when they had high hopes of earning a state berth.

“At the beginning, we really felt like we should have finished higher than we did,” she said. “But, overall the season was a great learning experience, the boys worked hard and we had fun.”

The Dogies will graduate eight seniors from their 14-person roster this year. Hoover is hoping to bring up 11 freshmen next season, but admitted it will be a rebuilding year with so much youth and inexperience.

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