Last week as Northview soccer coach Todd LaComba looked at his roster he was fairly confident in the depth, experience and leadership that his team possessed. How quickly things can change.
Just one game into the season and the Knights are already scrambling to replace key players.
Before Tuesday's opener with Terre Haute North, senior midfielder Neal Brown was diagnosed with mononucleosis and the prognosis is that he will miss at least three weeks of action. And just before halftime against the Patriots, senior midfielder Stephen Stewart went down with an apparent ankle injury after a collision on a loose ball.
Despite missing two solid offensive players against North, the Knights still fought valiantly in a 5-1 loss.
The star of the game for the Knights was senior goal keeper Mitch Mershon who made a number of stellar saves against an aggressive North offense. "Obviously the goal today was a high point but Mitch (Mershon) stole the show," commented LaComba. "He really came up big for us. Some of those saves were on point blank shots and a couple of the goals he allowed were professional style. Not even a pro keeper could have stopped them."
The Patriots jumped out quickly on the Knights with a pair of goals just 10 minutes into the contest. John Schmidt scored the first goal for North at the 36:05 mark off a long pass up the center of the field. Schmidt was able to corral the ball and get a one-on-one shot against Mershon and beat him to the right corner.
Mershon made a tough save just a minute later when North's Andy Jones rifled a shot that was earmarked for the top shelf of the goal if not for Mershon's outstretched hands deflecting the shot over the crossbar.
North added a score at the 31:20 mark of the first half as David Dallman received a crossing ball that found its way across the goal mouth, and flicked it home past a helpless Mershon.
Northview midfielder Brock Crooks just missed a chance at a breakaway as a long pass up the center of the field beat him to the box by a few steps and he was tripped up as North's goalie collected the ball. Kraig McClellan also missed a shot on goal just wide of the post late in the half.
The Patriots would add their third goal on a long shot that found its way under the cross with just 5:14 left in the half. But the real loss of the first half was Stewart who was left writhing in pain for several moments before being helped off the field. He would remain sidelined the rest of the game with his ankle wrapped.
In the second half the Knights appeared to buckle down quite a bit to hold North at bay as Northview took their shot at a rally.
Mershon made another point blank save, one that, in turn, fired up the Northview offense.
Freshman forward Shane Dean received a short pass outside the box and delicately worked his way towards the corner of the goal, drawing defenders his direction. With two men marking him and another on his way, Dean squeezed a centering pass to Jason Short who curled a 10-foot shot past North's diving keeper and into the corner. "The little passes did well for us," commented LaComba. "The guys were starting to realize later in the game that we weren't going to be able to dump the ball over the top against North's players. (North's) really quick."
That same quickness enabled the Patriots to cap off the game with another pair of goals, one on a shot ripped by North senior Alex McLean from close range that Mershon got a hand on but couldn't quit contain, and another that was hit from at least 25 yards out and just got under the crossbar for the game's final tally.
Despite the apparent lopsided score, LaComba was upbeat about his team's performance. "Obviously with our injuries tonight we got some of the younger guys in a little quicker then perhaps we wanted to but I think we laid down a pretty good foundation to build on today."
The Knights (0-1) look for their first win of the season when they visit Crawfordsville on Thursday evening.
Knights (0-1), North (1-0)