By Ben Leman
Starting strong was on the minds of both coaches prior to Tuesday night’s soccer match between Mt. Zion and Charleston.
But it was the Braves who effectively implemented that game plan by scoring twice in the first 17 minutes.
Another goal by Mt Zion 11 minutes later made it 3-0, which proved too much for Charleston to overcome in its 4-2 loss to an Apollo Conference foe at Paul Stranz Field.
“We came out flat,” Charleston coach Josh Garrett said. “Once we were down, we started to play harder.”
“The first 10 minutes are crucial in a game,” said Mt. Zion coach Jonathan Moore. “You want to set the tone early.”
Charleston senior keeper Ben Tresslar kept his team in the game early and often, blocking five shots overall.
Tresslar dived to stop a shot midway through the first half after Mt. Zion’s attackers went up the middle of the field.
“They like to confuse the defenders with their footwork,” Tresslar said. “It helps them make a really good run.”
At the end of the first half, Charleston finally scored. It was off a right corner kick from the foot of Caleb Limes, who then quickly passed to Aly Abou-Zaid who fired it in for the score.
After the goal was made, Charleston’s attitude seemed to change.
In the second half, Charleston started a little more strongly. The ball moved up and down the field during most of the period as Charleston mounted an emphasized defense and scored with 14 minutes left.
Charleston cut its deficit to 3-2 on a goal by junior Adam Gotschall who seized the opportunity when Mt. Zion’s keeper let go of a ball he had saved off a shot from Limes.
“If we had pressure like that in the first half, we probably would have won,” Abou-Zaid said.
In the last two minutes of the game, Mt. Zion’s Jonathan Oliger secured the lead with an insurance goal. His speed outmatched Charleston’s defenders as he ran the ball upfield and shot from the middle of the box.
Regardless of the score, Tresslar explained how important it is to keep up motivation and intensity until the last second.
“You’ve got to prepare for the whole game,” he said. “It is super important.”
When asked about what to focus on at practice, Garrett explained how the team needs to focus on aggression drills and to review the film. For defense, however, Garrett is trying to get his team to rely on each other.
“When the players can’t hear us [coaches], we have to get them to think as a unit themselves.”
The Trojans, whose two-game win streak was snapped, will travel to face Mattoon on Thursday.