Don’t blame opposing players if they feel like perplexed Lou Costello in the “Who’s on First?” comedy sketch when they’re playing the Wood River High School boys’ varsity soccer team with its fleet of attacking runners and defenders.
No matter which player is on the field, Wood River just keeps coming at you. Take Saturday’s “Senior Day” home game against the Madison Bobcats. Madison had barely stepped on the field and the visitors trailed 3-0. At the 17-minute mark, the score was 4-0.
By the end of the first half, the Wood River substitute players on the field were completely different from the starters—but the Wolverines still played 5A Madison to a standstill for the rest of the game in the 4-0 non-conference victory.
That was no surprise to Wood River’s fourth-year head coach Luis Monjaras, whose team (outscoring foes 24-6) remained unbeaten in 12 games and posted its eighth shutout. By halftime, all six seniors and over 20 players had been on the field and had contributed.
He said, “Right now you can’t tell the difference in the way our team plays when I put different players into the game. Some players have stepped up who I didn’t expect to, and we’ve created plenty of opportunities for them to play. The more experience, the better.”
By the end of three Homecoming Week games, the Wood River boys (8-0-4, 7-0-1 league) had answered the question of “Who’s in First Place?” in the Great Basin Conference—by beating league foes Canyon Ridge 3-1 and Jerome 2-0.
With 22 points with two games to play, Wood River earned the GBC regular-season league title for the first time since 2004 and will take the top seed into the state-qualifying GBC tourney next week. Jerome (7-1-4, 4-1-3 for 15 points) and Minico (5-6-2, 3-4-1, 10 points) are the next two.
The Wolverine boys have won only a single GBC tournament title, in 2010, since coming into the 4A ranks eight years ago—Burley taking four championships in those eight years and Jerome three. But Wood River came into the 2012 season with a clear focus.
Monjaras said, “We came into the season with the mentality of getting as far as we could. In boot camp, we pushed the boys as hard as we could. They’ve been aiming for the goal of ending a perfect season with the state championship.”
The Wolverines, unbeaten in their last 13 home games over two seasons and 23-4-2 at home under Monjaras (41-18-10), certainly looked like legitimate state championship contenders against Madison and Jerome.
Saturday, Wood River out-shot Madison 10-5 in the first half and finished successfully with sudden and devastating strikes. The four goals matched a season-high for Hailey’s boys.
Junior Zac Miczulski made a very sweet centering pass that junior Alberto Salinas converted for his first goal at four minutes. Then, junior Drew Morse tallied his first two goals in rapid succession, both on passes from senior Alex Lopez, the second on a nice header.
Wood River completed the scoring at 17 minutes when senior Cole Caminiti sent a perfect lead pass ahead to senior Guillermo Velasco, who scored his first goal. Junior goalkeeper Max Mauldin (6 saves) and sophomore keeper Kyle Weller (3 saves) shared the shutout in the net.
Thursday’s home game with Jerome, a match-up of teams unbeaten in GBC play, had league supremacy at stake. Monjaras said, “The whole atmosphere was intense throughout the game. Even though it was Homecoming Week, the boys were taking the whole week very seriously.
“We told the boys to be patient and push the ball around. We said it was probably on the set plays where the goals will come. Our speed at the top worked for us and in the second half Jerome got tired. We used our big field to our advantage.”
Jerome’s defense led by deep-kicking sophomore Yovani Martinez kept Wood River off the board in the dead-even, scoreless first half. Hailey junior defender Miguel Velasco preserved the tie by blocking a shot in the box after Jerome’s only corner kick of the game.
Playing with the breeze at its back, Wood River picked up the pace and outshot Jerome 6-2 after the half. The Wolverines created a few decent chances while constantly applying pressure. The Tigers spilled high-flying Miczulski at 33 minutes and senior Trevor Brand lined up a direct kick just outside the box.
Jerome senior keeper Alejandro Cosio (5 saves) stopped Brand’s kick but couldn’t control the ball, which went out-of-bounds. The play set up an Andrew Graves corner kick, a lovely floater that could have been headed by three different Wolverines—but Lopez headed it home for his seventh goal and fifth game winner.
A second, insurance goal off a set play came three minutes later. Brand teed up a free kick near midfield, right in front of the Wood River student rooting section, and lifted a 50-yard shot that baffled the keeper, found the back of the net and finalized the 2-0 outcome behind keeper Mauldin (5 saves).
Monjaras said, “Jerome uses its wings very well and is a very smart team, but we made sure we had enough boys in the middle of the field to counter whatever it was they tried.”
Wood River visited Minico Tuesday and goes to Twin Falls (3-8-2, 1-6-1) Thursday, Sept. 27 to finish the regular season.
Girls’ season returns home
A challenging Homecoming Week of three road games ended Saturday for the Wood River High School girls’ varsity soccer team with a 2-1 loss to the 5A Madison Bobcats (5-3-1) at Rexburg in the first meeting of the two schools since 1996.
Senior goalkeeper Kiana Chapman had an amazing game, coach Jenni Conrad said, and the Bobcats needed the second goal of the game by Alisha Clark, in the final minute, to earn the victory. Allison Gasenica scored for Hailey.
Wood River (8-4-0, 7-1-0 league) won 2-1 at Jerome (4-7-1, 2-5-1 league) Thursday on goals by Miranda Gasenica and Brigette Thomas. The Wolverines hosted Minico (1-10-2, 1-6-1) Tuesday and have their “Senior Night” Thursday, Sept. 27 at 5 p.m. against league-leading Twin Falls (12-1-0, 8-0-0) at South Valley Sports Complex.