The Menomonie boys soccer team’s defense held on for as long as it could.
Then the flood gates opened.
Rice Lake scored twice in less than three minutes to take a first half lead before adding a third goal before the break and three after as the Warriors defeated the Mustangs 6-0 on Tuesday in Menomonie.
Goalie Jonathan Fenton and the back line for the Mustangs held steady against a fury of shots for more than half of the opening 45 minutes. As soon as Rice Lake found the back of the net it broke through and continued to add.
The Warriors scored the first goal of the game 25 minutes, 17 seconds into play before adding a second goal in the 28th minute.
Rice Lake took a 3-0 advantage into halftime with score in the 35th minute. All three of Rice Lake’s goals in the first half came off rebound plays after Fenton had made an initial save.
Fenton had 29 saves as Rice Lake totaled 36 shots on goal.
“We need to help him out,” Menomonie coach Meagan Franks said of Fenton. “He made the first, the second, the third saves several times and we just weren’t getting them covered coming through the middle,”
The Warriors left no doubt with another three scores after the break as Jake Engebritso added his second goal of the game for Rice Lake.
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Menomonie wasn’t able to generate chances at the goal and Frank said a lack of experience and patience is currently having a negative impact on the team’s offensive attack.
“Sometimes we give the ball up a little too much in the midfield partly because we’re a little panicked,” Frank said, “so once they get some composure and confidence that they can hold it just for that split second they have the pass and connect the pass and go forward as a team, we’ll get more opportunities.”
Frank is looking for the team to play with a quicker pace. This pace will come more consistently with added experience. Playing a lot of underclassmen this year the Mustangs hope a level comfort develops as the year progresses and faster decision-making can occur.
When the Mustangs have been successful this year, Frank said they are working well as a team and playing with a faster tempo.
“The team is playing combination soccer very well when those good things happen for us, Frank said, “so we’re finding build-up play, triangle passing and we’re playing very quickly so the quicker we play the better we do and that’s what happens when you start to learn the speed of this game.”
Menomonie resumes play on Thursday at Eau Claire Memorial before participating in a quad in Mauston on Saturday. The following week features a home match with Chippewa Falls on Tuesday and a trip to River Falls on Thursday.
Despite some lopsided losses in the Big Rivers so far this season Frank has seen positives steps from the young roster.
“What I’m pleased with even though it might not show up in the scoreboard, there’s definitely growth happening for this group,” Frank said, “and they’re getting a lot of good valuable playing time even though they’re young against much older teams and they’re showing up and they continue to work hard. I couldn’t be more pleased with how hard they work to the whistle. They don’t ever stop, they don’t ever quit no matter what the score is and I’m really proud of that.”