OTTAWA – It’s understandable for any team to be a little shaky in the opening moments of the first contest of any season.
That was the case for the Ottawa boys soccer team in Tuesday afternoon’s season opener against Roanoke-Benson/Eureka at King Field.
However, the Pirates shook the early nerves midway into the first half and played solid soccer the rest of the way in a 4-1 victory over the Rockets.
Senior forward Ethan Cela scored a goal in each half for the hosts, sophomore Evan Snook added another, and classmate Brian Diederich posted two assists, while the fourth tally was an own goal.
“I saw a lot of first-game jitters from us in the first 20 minutes for sure, but I guess that’s not out of the norm for first games,” said first-year OHS coach Kevin Olesen, whose team held a 1-0 lead at halftime. “When we did settle down, we started to do the things we have been working on in practice. I feel like the last half of the first half and the entire second half, we were moving well and distributing the ball well, which in turn give us more solid chances.
“Obviously, the goal is to see more and more of those good things in longer and longer stretches as the season progresses.”
Ottawa, which had given up a handful of good chances to the visitors early, opened the scoring with 11:44 left in the first half.
After a passing sequence by Landen Thorsen to Grayson Skinner and then a cross by the latter, the ball deflected off of the Pirates’ Connor Diederich and to Cela, who blasted the ball in from 15 yards out.
“At halftime we talked a lot about keeping things simple, not trying to do too much and relying on teammates to be where they are supposed to be,” Olesen said. “I thought the pace of the game is where we want it to be for much of the second half, and we did a better job of finding open space off the ball. I thought from the front line to midfield to defense to goalkeeper, we did a nice all-around job today.”
The Pirates increased their lead to 2-0 in the opening minutes of the second half when a crossing pass by Collin Lyons was inadvertently deflected into the net by a R-B/E defender.
Six minutes later, starting with a keep-in by Thorsen at midfield, Brian Diederich and Snook played give-and-go up the pitch until Snook’s shot from the top of the penalty box found the lower left corner of the next.
Ottawa’s final tally of the match came with just over 24 minutes remaining when Cela guided the ball into the net with his chest from the goal mouth after Brian Diederich’s initial shot was saved.
“It was exciting to get off to a good start to the season, not only for myself but for the team as well,” Cela said. “I think that both goals I scored were just a matter of being in the right place at the right time. Both of them came off deflections that I was luckily able to control and put good shots on.
“We did seem to get off to a bit of a slow start, but I think we all felt more in sync with each other as the game went along. We started being in the right spots and making the right passes, especially in the second half, and I think that led to some really good opportunities.”
The Rockets broke the shutout with a penalty kick goal past OHS keeper Brady Wendt (seven saves) in the final minutes.
The Pirates are back in action on Thursday when they travel to Princeton to take on the Tigers at 4:30 p.m.