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After 11 straight losses, the Highland Huskies have won two games in six days, defeating Central Lee 2-1 in the SEISC soccer tournament on Tuesday, May 9, and beating Wapello 3-0 on Monday, May 15.
For the second time this season, the Huskies and Hawks were scoreless after nearly 40 minutes of play. Caleb Brase found himself one-on-one with the Central Lee goalie, a situation that he was prepared for.
“We had just talked about it before the game, I told him ‘stop kicking straight, stop going straight at the goalie,’” Highland coach Tony Castillo recalled. “I said, ‘as soon as you see the goalie’s head go down, cut the right or left and then come in.’ He did that perfectly.”
When the goalkeeper went low, Brase went around him to the right. His defender recovered, but Brase moved to his left and walked into the goal.
Central Lee quickly came back with the equalizer less than a minute later.
“The guys hung their shoulders for about 30 seconds but they came back and kept going,” Castillo said.
Central Lee won the first meeting between the two teams with penalty kicks after sending the game into overtime with a late goal.
This time, Jordan Sosa scored the go-ahead goal and the Huskies celebrated their first win.
“They were ecstatic,” Castillo said. “It was a big weight off of their shoulders.”
“It proves I’m not a liar,” he laughed. “I told them they could do it.”
Castillo credited freshman Derick Sandburg for bringing energy on Tuesday.
“He got the start at fullback and he set the tone right away by attacking the ball coming in and going after it,” Castillo said. “In the second half they came out with two or three guys on him, pushing and he held his ground.
“Zane Arnold, another ninth grader starting on the other side at fullback, they did an awesome job.”
It was just the second time that Highland had scored multiple goals in a game and the first time that the Huskies had allowed less than two.
“It was a great day, from a coaching standpoint, all the way through,” Castillo said. “They listened, they executed, they kept going, they didn’t stop.”
After a 10-0 loss to the top seed Danville in the SEISC tournament quarterfinals, the Huskies bounced back with a 3-0 shutout of Wapello.
Cullen Klebe scored the first goal from the left side of the 18-yard box. His shot narrowly avoided the goalie, giving Highland a lead just seven minutes into the contest.
Caleb Brase scored the second goal after drawing a foul in the penalty box. Brase scored his sixth goal of the season later in the half when the Wapello goalie came out agressively, giving Brase an opening on the left side of the goal. He put the ball in the corner, giving Highland a 3-0 lead.
Castillo explained Highland’s offensive eruption.
“I think it was playing a couple games, getting that win and that excitement, and a little bit more understanding of what they’re doing,” he said.
“They were going after it. That’s a big thing, they’re going after it and trying to win the ball and that’s the difference.”
Wapello had a strong wind at its back in the second half, but Highland goalie Tyler Striegel and the Huskie defense preserved the shutout.
“I was more aggressive down there,” Striegel said of the second half. “I just had to come out of the box a little bit and keep them away.
“It was quite the experience, we just went there and had fun,” Striegel said. “We’ve been practicing hard lately and I think it really paid off.”
Postseason pairings were announced on Thursday by the IHSAA. Highland will travel to No. 10 Burlington Notre Dame for a first round substate matchup on Monday, May 22.