Madison West senior midfielder Will Taylor knew he needed to make a heads-up play during Thursday night’s Big Eight Conference boys soccer match with Middleton.
But just before Taylor planned to strike, he lost sight of teammate Ian Shi’s crossing pass in the Mansfield Stadium lights.
Through one part skill and another part good fortune, Taylor, standing to the left of the goal, headed the ball past Middleton senior goalkeeper Ben Scher and bounced a shot into the net at the 15-minute, 20-second mark.
Taylor’s first goal of the season was the difference in a 1-0 victory for the host Regents (4-2-0 overall, 2-1-0 Big Eight).
“I saw our right winger Ian dribbling down the line and I knew he was going to play a good ball,” Taylor said about Shi, a senior. “So, I managed to run down there. I really didn’t see the ball. It got lost in the lights up there, and I just sort of closed my eyes and it went in.”
Regents senior goalkeeper Alex Alvarado had seven saves while blanking the Cardinals (2-6-0, 1-2-0), who have had limited time on practice fields due to the recent flooding in Middleton.
Drew Kornish, in his second year as Regents’ coach, said Shi made a great run and played a outstanding crossing pass. Then Taylor “did a nice job peeling off his defender in time, and went up and closed his eyes and knocked it in, I guess,” Kornish said with a laugh.
The early goal helped settle down the Regents.
“It calmed the nerves a little bit,” Kornish said. “We knew that if we would come out early we could put them on their heels. They have had a little bit of a tough start to their season, so we knew it was something we wanted to capitalize on early — to put them in a hole. We know they are a fantastic side. … Any time we can jump on them, we need to do so.”
The game was the first meeting between the teams since Madison West edged Middleton 1-0 in a WIAA Division 1 sectional final last season. Eventual Division 1 champion Milwaukee Marquette beat West 2-1 in overtime in a state semifinal.
“They are well-coached,” Middleton coach Ben Kollasch said. “There is a reason these have been low-scoring affairs — last time around was 1-nothing and this time around was a carbon copy.”
West, led by senior forward Jheison Garcia and sophomore midfielder Khedive Miguel Konde Gwo, controlled possession at the start of the match.
“We came out really strong,” Kornish said. “It was a good game for us. We wanted to make sure we came out with a lot of energy. It was the first time we got to play at Mansfield this season, so the boys were really excited about that. And you have Middleton, which is always a great side. So, it was a big win for us.”
Taylor, who said he was ill Wednesday with a cold, came off the bench after about 10 minutes and scored 5 minutes later.
“I just wanted to play,” he said. “I usually don’t score, so I wasn’t necessarily looking to score. But once I got that goal, it felt good and so I wanted some more. (But) they didn’t come.”
The Cardinals didn’t put Alvarado under much duress in the first half, but they came out aggressively after halftime. Alvarado made a diving save at 51:38, stopping Middleton junior defender/midfielder Peter Tuttle’s bid on a blast from 18 yards.
“They definitely had the first half,” said Kollasch, whose team was without injured senior midfielder Gregory Pauly. “It wasn’t necessarily a tone we were trying to set — aggressive or passive. It was more that the choices we made as a team weren’t effective in the first half. It’s tough to spot a team like that a goal and come back. I really thought we’d get one. We had better chances in the second half. Sometimes, it doesn’t go your way.”
West applied late pressure; Regents junior forward Jallow Ousman hit the post in the 75th minute.
Scher came up big for Middleton with five of his eight saves in the second half, and Kollasch said junior defender Blake Kalscheur turned in a strong performance.
“We are in an earlier stage of development as a team than some of these other teams out there,” Kollasch said. “I see good things, I see really good things from this team.”
Middleton 0 0 — 0
Madison West 1 0 — 1
First half: MW — Taylor (Shi), 15:20.
Saves: Midd (Scher) 8; MW (Alvarado) 7.