Both the Manchester and Lakeland Christian soccer teams have had their fair share of successes over the past few seasons, with the two sides meeting Tuesday in Winona Lake with both teams in perhaps their best form of the season. The day would belong to the Squires, who used a 3-1 win to snap LCA’s six-game unbeaten streak while extending their own winning streak to six in the process.
The Squires were able to showcase their dominance in the open field from the jump, making it clear that a majority of the game would be played with the Cougars on the defensive. The passing of Manchester’s midfield made it easy for wingers and forwards to generate the space needed to go on a goal scoring run quite often.
Those opportunities were plentiful in the opening minutes of the match. In the first five minutes of the game, Squire striker Tyler McLain had three shots on goal, but all three were stopped by LCA goalkeeper Braden Weirick, who had a very busy, and very good first half in net. For the most part, Weirick was a brick wall, getting a hand (and on one occasion, his face) on almost every shot he saw.
For the Cougars, offense was hard to come by in the opening 40 minutes. Outside of a few runs by Jashawn Zielasko, who has been one of the top goal scorers in the area this year, Lakeland Christian was unable to keep the ball out of their zone. Adrian Bowdler was everywhere for LCA on defense, doing his best to help his keeper out.
Eighteen minutes into the match, the Squires, who had been getting closer and closer to scoring the opener, finally did so. A series of pretty passes would leave the ball at the feet of Diego Munoz just inside the box. Munoz would do the rest, sending a rocket just past the gloves of Weirick for the game’s first goal.
It didn’t take long for the Squires to find another. Less than a minute after scoring the first, Manchester got its second goal of the game after Nathaniel Miller made a tremendous run through a series of defenders, picked his spot just outside the box and sent it home.
Following the second goal, Lakeland Christian began pressing the visitors higher up the field. At first, this strategy worked wonders, preventing the Squires from quickly advancing forward and even creating some opportunities for the home side in the process. While the Cougars would not get one back in the first half, the strategy prevented Manchester from extending its lead, keeping LCA in striking range.
Lakeland Christian Academty sophomore Jashawn Zielasko (L) and Manchester senior Dylan Hernandez battle for the ball during the first half. Photo by Gary Nieter
Lakeland Christian began the second half with much more purpose, winning the 50/50 balls it had previously lost while beginning to run some efficient offense. Despite the steps forward, it would be the Squires adding on to their lead by scoring the game’s next goal. McLain was able to create a ton of space on a counter attack, then sent a perfect ball into the middle of the box for Caleb Sautter, who took it from there and made it a 3-0 game.
With 20 minutes left in the contest, the Cougars were finally able to manage their first shot on goal, as Aaron Gause laced a nice free kick right at the Manchester keeper. Not long after, the Squires were almost able to add another score on the counterattack, but Weirick was there once again to make a great save.
Just a few minutes later, the Cougars would get onto the scoreboard. An all-out attack with every LCA player attacker pressing forward would be too much for Manchester to handle, leading to a series of shots on goal followed by subsequent rebounds. On the third rebound of the sequence, the ball fell perfectly to the feet of LCA’ Aiden Yoder, who unleashed a missile of a shot into the back of the net with 13 minutes remaining.
Now facing the pressure of having to hold on to a slimmer lead, the Squires looked a bit out of sorts following the goal, almost allowing a second immediately after. After settling back down, Manchester was able to get back to what had made them so successful up to this point, staying on the offensive until the final whistle sounded.
Manchester (9-2-1) plays its game Wednesday at home against Mississinewa, while Lakeland Christian (7-5-1) travels to Tippecanoe Valley Thursday to face off with the Vikings.