MARINETTE — A red-hot offense, keyed by a hat trick from Noah Cegelski, propelled the Marinette boys soccer team to an 11-1 drubbing of North Eastern Conference rival Denmark in their season opener on Tuesday.
Already appearing to be in midseason form, the Marines blitzkrieged the Vikings early and often to take a 4-0 lead just 14 minutes into the game. Five more goals gave Marinette a 9-1 advantage at halftime, and two quick goals in the second half put the Marines up by 10 and forced an early stoppage, giving Marinette a dominating victory.
The victory was also the first for new Marine head coach Jason Smerchek, who takes over for former coach Frank Pohlmann, and the new ball coach was pleased with how his team looked in its first game.
“It’s always nice to get the season off with a win and this was a pretty dominating performance,” he said. “The kids worked hard and got some goals early and had some really nice finishes. We have some speed and I think that’s going to work well for us this year. I know it’s going to be a little harder going forward but today, you couldn’t ask for anything more in a win.”
Marinette’s speed was apparent against Denmark, as Owen Hansen put the Marines on the board just six minutes into the game off an assist from Cegelski.
Cegelski scored his first goal shortly after before knifing his way through the Vikings defense for another score at the 9:00 minute. Cegelski tacked on his third goal 24 minutes into the game off an assist from Keegan Polomis. Polomis scored two goals himself in the first half while Dominick Smerchek, Ayden Blystone and Kyle Loberger tallied goals to help the Marines take the lead at halftime. Denmark’s lone score came off a goal at the 36:00 minute mark in the first half.
Juniors Cegelski and Polomis, along with Smerchek, a sophomore, are returning starters from last year’s team, along with senior goalie Aaron Tickler, who recorded two saves against the Vikings. Those four form the core of what should be a team featuring a great balance of veteran leadership and youth.
“Noah had a great game. He has great vision, can see the field very well and has great touch on his passes, so he really creates a lot for us,” Smerchek said. “Keegan is solid in the middle and Dominick is really good with the ball so we’re very solid up the middle. You didn’t see much of it today but Aaron is solid in the net. He’ll probably be tested more as the season goes on, but he looks good in practice and looked good today.”
Also returning from last year’s team is senior Kaden Luitze, junior Robert Hruska and Bystone, a sophomore. Newcomers are freshmen Carter Jacobson, Luke Noel, Alex Crossman, Dominic Stark and Brady Rickaby. Seniors Loberger, Hunter Luitze, Tyler Demmith, Hayden Myers and Joe Swiatnicki are joined by sophomore Braden Prange in making of the rest of the Marines’ roster.
Defensively, Marinette was solid and controlled the ball for much of the game, keeping the action mostly on Denmark’s side of the field. The Vikings were able to build a bit of momentum midway through the first half, but the Marines clamped down and quickly ended the scoring threat.
The second half was much like the first, with Blystone firing in his second goal of the game eight minutes into the half. Tickler, played in the field in the second half while Rickaby played in the net, assisted on a laser of goal by Hruska that gave Marinette a 10-point lead and ended the game early at the 70:00 minute.
While the scoreboard was in their favor, Smerchek said that there’s plenty for Marinette to improve upon after Tuesday’s game.
“We need to improve our first touch and controlling the ball even better than we did today,” he said. “Our first touch got away from us at times and that can hurt you in certain situations. We need to work on our spacing because we tend to get sucked into the middle, so if we can keep spaced and keep wide it creates space and opens up the middle. Overall, we can’t complain too much but we know every game won’t be this easy. We’re excited to see where this season goes.”
Marinette is back on the field Friday, hosting NEC foe Wrightstown at 4 p.m.