The Fond du Lac boys soccer team battled bitter cold, gusting winds and a deeply entrenched Hartford defense in a WIAA Division 1 regional final on Thursday night at the Fondy Soccer Complex.
The cold and the wind didn’t seem to bother the third-seeded Cardinals, but Hartford’s defense carried the sixth-seeded Orioles to a 1-0 victory.
“We knew it was going to be a brutal match,” Fondy coach Greg Winkler said. “We knew the style of play they had, it was kind of who would we get in the middle and whether they would control that kind of play or not, and unfortunately for us a lot of stuff was let go tonight.
“We missed a lot of opportunities though. We took it to them in the first half and I thought we took it to them in the second half.”
It was obvious from the beginning that Fondy was going to control possession. It was just a matter of doing something with it. Fondy’s best chances of getting on the scoreboard came in the first 6 minutes of the game.
Two minutes into the contest, Elliot Pieper blazed down the left side of the field, received a pass and had a clean shot at the goal, but the shot wasn’t high enough and Hartford goalie Colin Stocking made a sprawling save.
Brennan Davies beat Stocking in the sixth minute only for his shot from the top of the box to dip just a split second too late and pound the crossbar instead of nestling into the net.
“I knew going in if we scored in the first 20 minutes we were probably going to score a couple,” Winkler said. “I knew if we made it to halftime without a goal they were going to just keep in their bunker.”
While Fondy (14-10-2) continued to control the ball, Hartford started to settle into its defensive game.
“It was important (to keep it 0-0),” Hartford coach Jack DeSelm said. “We made some personnel changes and we started to see the tide start to turn, especially the final 10 minutes of the first half.”
The Orioles turned that momentum into a goal in the game’s 47th minute. Michael Moua just stayed onside and ran onto a through ball, he slid the ball to DJ Bednar on an overlapping run and Bednar blasted a low shot right at the Fondy keeper, who was on the near post. The ball bounced off the goalie and off the post and rolled inches past the goal line.
Fondy had six shots on goal after falling behind, but it could not find that one magic strike.
“This group of guys had a great season,” Winkler said. “We overcame a lot and we came together at the right time. I guess it just wasn’t meant to be.”