Young team shows heart

Wednesday night’s season-opener against Stanwood may have ended in a 1-1 tie for the Oak Harbor soccer team, but the final result was a symbolic victory for a young Wildcat team.

“It was as good as a win because we fought back after some silly mistakes in the beginning,” head coach Steve Barker said.

Trailing 1-0 at halftime, Oak Harbor appeared a frustrated group. To go along with numerous early penalties, the Cats were tagged with two yellow cards and one red card. The red card, which was called on junior midfielder Brian Fakkema only three minutes into the second half, appeared it may be the downfall for OHHS. Not only was their most experienced midfielder ejected, but they were forced to play 37 minutes of the second half one man short.

Things then made a sudden turn for the Cats.

Two minutes after Fakkema was ejected, Oak Harbor was called for yet another penalty in its own goal box. The foul resulted in a one-on-one penalty kick between Spartan forward Shea Mailloux and Wildcat goalkeeper Brian Wandell. After sitting the first half, Wandell quite possibly made the most significant play of the game. Diving to his right, Wandell snagged the shot mid-air, keeping the Cats within a goal.

“We had a tremendous performance in the second half by our keeper Wandell,” Barker said. “It was just a brilliant game.”

The sophomore goalie had six key saves in the second half and two overtime periods.

Despite playing 10 against 11, Oak Harbor seemed the more energized team after the save by Wandell. The Cats kept the ball at the Stanwood end the majority of the half, out-shooting the Spartans 8-4.

Unfortunately for Oak Harbor, with all their shots they struggled to find the back of the net.

“We just didn’t fire well tonight,” Barker said.

The Cats were finally rewarded for their offensive pressure in the 65th minute, when sophomore midfielder Henry Vasquez scored.

Taking a nicely crossed ball from Keith Lokkins, Vasquez used the shield of teammate Blake Ward to get free in the box and boot the ball with his left foot over the goalkeeper’s head.

“I thought Blake Ward had it—it went over his head and I saw the hole and I just nailed it,” Vasquez said.

The goal by Vasquez was the last for either team, despite a few more good looks from Oak Harbor.

The game went into two five-minute sudden-death overtimes, but neither squad could capitalize on the new overtime rules implemented for the 2004 season. Prior to this year the game would have simply ended in a tie after regulation, except for playoff situations where it would go to a shoot-out.

Even though they didn’t come away with a victory, the second half provided a boost of confidence to the Cats when they could have folded.

“At first things were shaky, but I think this turned out good and now we’re going to start building,” Vasquez said.

The Wildcats (0-0-1) played at Snohomish (1-0-0) last night and have their next game at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 23 at home against Arlington.

1 2 OT OT

Oak Harbor 0 1 0 0—1

Stanwood 1 0 0 0—1

Goals-Stanwood: Mia. Oak Harbor: Vasquez. Goalkeepers: Oak Harbor Ward, Wandell.

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