Days are shorter and there's a chill in the September air, a sign of fall and the time of year when Idaho prep soccer teams have to put up or shut up.
Tournament time is drawing near. And soccer coaches like to feel their teams are peaking at the right time.
That's what Wood River High School boys' varsity soccer coach Matt Phillips said Tuesday after his streaking Wolverines upset the Minico Spartans 2-1 at South Valley Sports Complex soccer field in Hailey. "We're really peaking at the right time," said Phillips.
Senior midfielder Thomas Goettelman (header) and senior Austin Moses scored in the 65th and 69th minutes off of set pieces—corner kicks delivered by Austin Cruz and David Dredge—to erase a 1-0 Minico lead achieved in the 53rd minute by striker Jorge Carrillo.
The Wolverines avenged a 3-1 loss to Minico (8-4-1, 1-3-0 league) at Rupert Sept. 3. Resurgent Wood River (6-5-0, 2-2-0) also recorded its third straight win and its fourth victory in the last five starts.
And it wasn't an ordinary win—it was a come-from-behind triumph in Great Basin Conference West league play that put the Wolverines in position to earn a higher-seed home game for the Great Basin West league tourney starting Oct. 9.
"From start to finish, it was a wonderful game," said Phillips. "We were confident and relaxed and focused on our goal. Our passing was exceptional—I counted six consecutive passes at one point, and a couple of times when we put eight straight passes together, which is great."
Hailey was dominant.
The home team out-shot Minico 24-5 and owned an 11-5 edge in corner kicks. They excelled in 50-50 battles, created spacing with deft dribbles and passes, kept their bodies low to the ground and won many balls that way, and prevented Minico from mounting attacks.
Despite their many chances including a 14-2 shooting edge in the scoreless first half, "finishing" eluded Wood River.
"We played our best soccer of the year in the first half, an explosive attack with a steadfast defense," said Phillips.
Sophomore midfielder Chris de la Cruz, back from a knee injury, junior captain Morgan Pike, junior Austin Cruz, junior Felipe Raygoza and sophomore Bryan Donoso put constant pressure on Minico keeper Alejandro Olmos (8 saves first half, 14 game).
Phillips said, "Our midfield did an exceptional job of coming up and back, making the transition with the ball and playing it forward."
Wood River junior keeper Colter Brehmer (3 saves) stopped Minico's only legitimate first-half chance when he dove to his left and deflected a strong 24-yard rocket by Spartan senior Gavin Smith at seven minutes.
Hailey senior defender John Leavell kept Minico's always-dangerous scorer Carrillo from getting the ball and delivering offense. Phillips said, "A huge accolade to John Leavell who man-marked Jorge and did an exceptional job."
Other Wood River defenders, Cody Phelps and Spyder Turco, were just as productive repelling attacks.
But it was Minico scoring first, Gavin Smith and Isaac Medina coming up with the ball in Wood River's end and finding Carrillo alone to keeper Brehmer's right. Carrillo shot and Brehmer made the first save, but Carrillo nailed the rebound, 1-0.
Phillips said, "We really had only one letdown all game, right after the Minico goal. But we kept our composure, stayed focused and regained control of the game. I was proud."
At 65 minutes, Cruz drilled a low corner kick into the box where rangy midfielder Goettelman dipped his head and re-directed the ball into the back of the net, 1-1. Four minutes later Dredge took a corner kick from the right side that Cruz touched in the box, but it went over to Moses on the far post. And Moses scored the winner.
For Wood River, Alejandro Garcia came off the bench and made some key touches prior to Moses' game-winning goal.
Wood River hosted Twin Falls (2-9-1) Thursday in Hailey, the 5A Bruins coming off a 2-1 loss to Skyline in Idaho Falls Tuesday.
Phillips said Tuesday, "We got beaten badly by Twin Falls (by 5-2) earlier, so I expect a good challenge from them.
Meanwhile, top-ranked Jerome (10-0-1, 4-0-0) stayed atop the Great Basin West with a convincing 4-0 win over host Burley (6-5-1, 1-3-0) Tuesday. Jerome, the reigning Great Basin tournament champion, could have clinched the regular-season title with a victory at Minico Thursday.
Wood River travels to Idaho Falls for a non-conference game with 4A Hillcrest Tuesday.