A younger, smaller Hillsdale Academy team used discipline and determination to knock off a more aggressive, but somewhat wayward Jonesville squad for the second time this season, proving that athleticism alone only goes so far.
In a game that was played in the middle third of the field for a good portion of it, both teams had several good scoring chances, but an Eric Lisznyai goal on a nice pass from Nekoda Cartwright with 21:05 to play was all the Colts (8-2 overall, 4-1 ISL) would need to hand Jonesville (9-41, 5-1) its first ISL league loss.
In a game that became chippy by the end, with hip checks being thrown, and two Comet players receiving yellow cards, the Academy players simply did a better job of keeping their composure and enforcing their tactics on a consistent basis.
“I think the ultimate goal in soccer is you disregard the score at the end, you disregard the number of goals, but what you try to do is maintain possession and try to keep the ball until something opens up,” Colts head coach Neal Brady said. “Jonesville is very athletic, very physical, a high-pressure kind of team, very fast. Coming away with a 10 win against Jonesville is not an easy thing to do, they’re a great team.”
Jonesville head coach Pat Bernklau could only shake his head at the final result, hoping he could find a way to keep his team on board the rest of the season.
“We just didn’t play our game, again the Academy played us well, Neal and them, they’re ready to play. I told my team coming in that the Academy is a smart playing team, and we lack that sometimes in some games,” he said. “Sometimes we don’t work together as a team and once we got frustrated they took us out of the game. I’m really disappointed.”
When the two teams met the first time Jonesville speedsters Adam Thorp and Caleb Brown broke loose on several big runs in the open field, and Brown scored twice, while Thorp netted one goal.
On Thursday the Colts back row of defenders, Bruce and Brent Cartwright, Chris Potts and Chip Blood, did a fine enough job on the Comet stars that Brady didn’t really have to shadow Thorp and Brown the full 80 minutes. Plus goal keeper Peter Sullivan was solid in net, earning the cleansheet.
“I didn’t want to employ a defense that put a man on either Caleb or Adam full-time, because they are so good that either one of them…basically you would’ve had to manmark both guys, which takes two guys out of the game,” Brady said. “What the four guys in the back had to do was have enough discipline to know where they were on the field and I think they did that fairly well.”
They did it well enough to get Jonesville completely out of its element, to a near breaking point. While Chad McOscar had several good shots from long distance and a few missed opportunities in the box, the Comets grew increasingly anxious as the final minutes ticked off the clock and Bernklau said a lot of his teams’ problems reared their ugly head in the second half.
‘They did a very good job on (Brown and Thorp) and what they did is they frustrated them and once they got them frustrated, those two with their personalities have a hard time. I told our guys at the beginning of the season if we would stick with the team and our chemistry stayed we would be fine, but what happens is we start arguing and blaming and our chemistry goes off and that’s what kills us,” Bernklau said. ‘They came in and played their game, we came in and took for granite or thought we had it in the bag because we had good things going on, but we just didn’t play our game. Our whole system just broke down today, we didn’t play it.”
On the opposite side of the ball, the Colts’ go-to guy Sawyer Moss was contained for the most part, often by two Comet defenders at a time, but the game’s lone goal scorer Lisznyai was consistently making smart reads and setting his teammates up to make the next pass or take an open shot. Brady said the junior forward has grown not only in size the last year, but also in his soccer IQ and play-making ability.
“He has great confidence, great skill…his father tells me that he kicks a soccer ball in his room incessantly, and it shows. When you have good touches on the ball and more foot skills you can have more time to look for the right pass,” he said. “He’s like a good point guard I guess. You want it at his feet. I wish he would look behind him a little more, but it’s something he’ll be working on.”
The Comets did have several things to reflect positively on in defeat, including strong play from defender Jerico Kelley who wasn’t afraid to throw a body on the opposition, and Jared Jordan, who hit a crossbar on a long-ball and made some intelligent reads.
Nonetheless, the fact is the Comets share of the ISL lead with Jackson Christian is now gone and Bernklau says he has a lot of work to do to change the way his team thinks about the game.
“For the Academy, I know they work hard in practice, I just know it and I’m not even there. They are very disciplined and Neal makes them disciplined… each one has a certain role,” he said. ‘That’s what I did with my new system and it started very well, but then as we get into the season we had a bad game at Stockbridge that turned us down a little bit and I’m having a hard time motivating them back the other way.”