By Jim Newell
It was a back-and-forth physical match between Lake Orion and Oxford on the soccer pitch Thursday night, but the Dragon’s offense proved too strong for the Wildcat defense in a 4-2 win at Lake Orion High School.
The win moves Lake Orion to 2-0-1 in OAA White league play.
The Dragon’s dominated early in the game, keeping the pressure – and the ball – in Wildcat territory for most of the first half.
Lake Orion’s James Clark opened the scoring at 26:42 of the first half, giving the Dragon’s the advantage less than 14 minutes into the game.
The Dragon’s scored their second goal of the match with 4:25 left in the first half on a controversial call. Oxford goalkeeper Tristan Bennett stopped a shot from Lake Orion’s Justin Fraser, but the referee ruled that the ball had crossed the goal line. Wildcats Head Coach John Thaler and Bennett briefly argued the call, to no avail.
The second half opened with more back-and-forth play as the Wildcat offense and midfield intensified its pressure to seize the momentum, but Lake Orion scored its third goal at 23:44 on a shot by midfielder Alberto Hernandez to take a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Dragons seemed to be in control of the game and Head Coach Matt Paukovits began subbing out his starting lineup.
With a little over 16 minutes left, Oxford got a break when Lake Orion committed a foul in their own penalty box. The Wildcats capitalized on the penalty shot, finally getting on the scoreboard, 3-1.
Oxford used that goal to shift the momentum, upping the pressure on the Dragons, scoring their second goal on a shot from senior forward Jonathon Fallis with 7:41 left in the game.
Thirty seconds later, Paukovits put his starting lineup back in the game, a move that paid off and stymied any comeback by the Wildcats when Rylee Manriquez scored Lake Orion’s fourth goal of the game with 3:25 remaining.
The Dragons next game is 7 p.m. Thursday against Rochester Adams.
Paukovits said he was pleased with the victory over Oxford and the team’s homefield play.
“It’s nice, in the two home games we’ve scored nine goals and given up two, so I feel like we’re playing well at home, we need to play a little bit better on the road,” Paukovits said. “The kids are trying to grow into the season. So overall, I think we’re improving and we’re looking forward to the next few games.”
While Paukovits liked what he saw from the team, he feels they can improve in a couple key areas in order to challenge for a league title.
“I was talking to the boys and I think we need to get a little bit more consistency, we weren’t consistent enough through the game. We’re happy to score four goals, of course we’re happy to get a win and get three points, but I think we have to play a little more consistent on a regular basis,” he said.
“If you score four goals it’s nice to score four goals in a game, but I think we need to concentrate a little bit more on the defensive side of the ball and clean things up and not go through such highs and lows during the course of a game.
“That’s a division game so that’s a big game for us. The division is still working itself out on who’s going to be on top so I think that every game in the division is a big game for us,” Paukovits said. “So, we’ll see how things work out. To win a division championship, that would be nice. That’s a goal of ours and we’d like to achieve that.
“I think the captains are doing a very nice job,” Paukovits said. “Colton Farley is doing a very nice job, Nick Chiaramonti is doing a real nice job. Logan Ballagh, he’s a third-year player and doing well.”