New London drops soccer sectional
By Scott Bellile
For New London’s varsity soccer program, the playing field at Rice Lake High School has now spoiled two chances at state trips this year.
There the girls’ team lost against Ashland 6-1 at its first-ever sectional final back in June. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the boys followed suit, losing their first-ever sectional final to Rice Lake 5-3.
New London advanced to the Division 3 sectional final following a 4-2 win over Lakeland in New London on Thursday, Oct. 29. Both New London and Rice Lake were No. 1 seeds.
At the sectional final, Rice Lake scored the first goal of the game. New London’s Parker Sullivan then scored, assisted by Jason Sanderfoot. Then Zane Goedderz, assisted by Joey Messina, contributed the next goal to end the first half 2-1.
“It was pretty evenly matched,” Bulldogs coach Joe Messina said about the first half. “We both played well doing the things we needed to do.”
But in the second half, Messina said New London suffered a mental breakdown over the span of a few minutes. The Rice Lake Warriors capitalized on some Bulldogs defensive mistakes to soar to a 5-2 lead.
New London’s David Piotter scored the last goal of the game with an assist by Sullivan to end it 5-3.
For many of his younger players, Messina said it was their first trip to a major tournament. He said about two-thirds of his team doesn’t play soccer year-round, and it showed.
“Hard work pays off,” Messina said. “I think that they’re realized they need to work a little harder to get themselves, for the long run, into state.”
Rice Lake (17-6-1) will play Notre Dame (13-8-4) in the state semifinal in Milwaukee on Thursday, Nov. 5.
Messina said he was disappointed the WIAA held the sectional final on the Warriors’ home turf they’re accustomed to. He called the decision unfair and said he hopes a neutral, central site is chosen for future sectional finals.
But Messina said his players should still be happy considering this is the furthest New London has advanced in boys’ soccer to date.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Messina said. “They did well. It was a successful season.”
The Bulldogs ended their soccer season 15-11-1. Last year they went 15-5-3, with their postseason cut short by a loss to Notre Dame in the regional final.