What a difference a half makes.
After a scoreless first half between the Flyway Conference’s top two teams in Winnebago Lutheran Academy and Central Wisconsin Christian, the Crusaders made the adjustments necessary to come out on top, winning 2-0 in a game played at Mulder Field in Waupun.
The win puts the Crusaders (14-3-1, 7-0 Flyway) in great position to repeat as conference champions as the Vikings (13-5-1) move to 5-2 in conference with just three games remaining.
“We’re in the position we want to be,” CWC head coach Greg Zonnefeld said. “This gives us great chance to repeat as conference champs and this should seal us a No. 1 seed (for regionals). It also should give us home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so I’m very pleased with that.”
The win also gives the Crusaders their second straight over the Vikings, who had beaten CWC in each of the 10 seasons prior to last year. The last win WLA came in a 2011 sectional final which sent the Vikings to state.
Tuesday had a slow first half for both teams, as scoring chances didn’t come around too often due to play towards the middle of the field. Zonnefeld said his kids continuously tied to pass the ball down the middle of the field, too often where Vikings defenders were.
In the second half, CWC adjusted to that and widened the playing field, allowing for separation between it and the Vikings’ players.
“I thought early on we had a few struggles defensively and we were a bit loose,” Zonnefeld said. “We were feeding the ball down the middle too much and we made that adjustment and played a little wider. We’ve been very good off restarts and tonight we were able to cross the ball and when we do that we can be very effective.”
CWC got on the board first in the 47th-minute when Jared Regnerus headed a ball toward the middle, and after WLA keeper Caleb King went up to try and grab it, Cody Zonnefeld got partial possession and was able to knock it in. The goal was Zonnefeld’s 26th of the year.
The next goal was quite similar, as Luke Jansen headed a ball to the box and John DeWar was right there at the same time King was, but DeWar was able to knock it in without King getting full possession, giving CWC a 2-0 lead in the 51st minute.
“All I saw was Cody on the first goal and he got clear and was able to finish and he’s been a great finisher all year for us,” Greg Zonnefeld said. “And John DeWar did a good job attacking the far post. He was in right position and that’s exactly why you put a guy on that back post.”
Cody Zonnefeld said a big part of the team’s second half success came to an adjustment he made after he was triple teamed in the first 40 minutes.
“Whenever I was in the box I had two or three people on me so what I decided to do in the second half was to stand inside the goal enough and just wait for the ball,” the junior said. “That took three men out of the game, so other people could make runs up to the middle.”
That clearly opened things up as CWC was never threatened thereafter. Zonnefeld said he was happy with the way his defense played after allowing a couple of early first half shots on goals.
“We definitely got better as the game went on. We just had to get our feet under us,” coach Zonnefeld said. “It was just a solid second half.”
The only thing standing in front of a Flyway title for CWC is three more games — against Omro, Waupun and Kettle Moraine Lutheran. But the way the Crusaders have been playing as of late, Cody Zonnefeld isn’t worried.
“I feel like coming out of this last weekend where we had a very strong tournament and playing against tough competition gave us confidence coming into the game,” he said. “I thought we came out flat but we picked it up and we now have our eyes on the prize on a conference championship.”
WLA…0 0 — 0
CWC…0 2 — 2
Second half: CWC: Cody Zonnefeld (Jared Regnerus), 47:10. CWC: John DeWar (Luke Jansen), 51:56.
Saves: WLA (Caleb King) 4, CWC (Logan Ganz) 3.