The difference between this season and last for the Marshfield boys soccer team became evident with the first goal.
For once, the Tigers held a lead over Wausau East.
That never happened last season, when East outscored Marshfield twice by wide margins on the way to a Wisconsin Valley Conference title. This season, returning all-conference player Austin Gilbert scored the game-deciding goal on a free kick from about 20 yards Thursday to help Marshfield beat East 3-2.
“We got a team in which these kids have all played together a long time,” said Gilbert, a senior who scored 8 minutes, 10 seconds into the second half. “The chemistry is like nothing we’ve had my whole high school career. Our passing and our understand of where we are make a big difference.”
Marshfield went ahead 1-0 and 2-1 with goals by junior Alex Sainterme and senior Matt McCann before Gilbert’s go-ahead goal.
From that point forward, Marshfield (1-1 Valley) used what coach Ron Todryk said was vastly improved passing from last season to keep the ball from East’s top-scoring players. East keeper Bryce Taylor also made a few sliding saves to prevent Marshfield from widening the lead.
This East team is not quite the same one that beat Marshfield 13-1 in two matches last season. East lost eight starters from last season and is playing for first-year coach Jeff Sorenson.
“We didn’t really play how we wanted to play, and part of that was when we got down, we rushed up the field and not play our normal possession game,” Sorenson said. “But we’ll be alright. One game, long season.”
Sorenson’s son, a senior named Evan, scored the first goal for East, in the first half. Sophomore Olajuwan Sitte followed in the second half with a nice arching shot to the far post from about 30 yards to the right, moments before Gilbert scored.
If anything, the result Thursday illustrated how unpredictable the Valley race could be this season, especially considering the wide margins by which East (1-1 Valley) beat Marshfield last season.
“Those scores tended to be big losses,” Gilbert said. “So this one really means a lot.”
Marshfield 3, Wausau East 2
M, Alex Sainterme, 15:28; WE, Evan Sorenson (pk), 35:19; M, Matt McCann, 36:47; WE, Olajuwan Sitte (Tanner Frahm), 47:57; M, Austin Gilbert, 48:10.
Saves: M, Matt Brown 2; WE, Bryce Taylor 6.