AW’s Philip Reed, left, defends while fighting for the ball with Springfield’s Steven Sekerak.
THE BLADE/LORI KING
Springfield hung right with No. 3-ranked Anthony Wayne in an extremely evenly played Northern Lakes League boys soccer match on Tuesday night.
Each team had moments of sustained pressure.
PHOTO GALLERY: Springfield, Anthony Wayne end at nil
Each team also clamped down defensively when the opposition got within striking distance. The result was very few quality scoring chances and a 0-0 tie before a crowd of about 550 at Springfield High School.
Anthony Wayne (8-0-3, 3-0-2 NLL) had climbed to third in the latest Division I state coaches poll. The Generals suffered their second draw in the NLL and longer control their destiny in the league race.
The biggest beneficiary of the scoreless deadlock was Northview. The Wildcats moved to 5-0-0 in NLL play with a 2-0 win over rival Southview on Tuesday. Northview further strengthened its position atop the league standings.
Springfield (10-2-1, 3-1-1 NLL) came out strong and gained more confidence as it jousted with the Generals.
“We didn’t play scared,” Springfield coach Eric Swindel said. “We played like we wanted to win it. We didn’t hold the back line and try to limit the shots.”
Springfield senior goalkeeper Tommy Kleinfelter finished with eight saves. Anthony Wayne keeper Austin Kaminski also made eight stops.
Springfield had a glorious chance with just 2:10 remaining but Joe Yeager rolled a shot just inches wide of the post.
Anthony Wayne senior A.J. Witte hit the post with a shot late in the first half.
Anthony Wayne coach Brian Billings said his team didn't execute his plan of getting the ball wide. Instead his Generals played the ball over the top.
“We worked hard. We just didn't create quality chances,” Billings said. “You have to do that against a good team like Springfield. When we played it wide we created some opportunities.
“But we didn’t finish. In a game like this you only get two or three opportunities.”
With 19:50 left Kleinfelter made the save of the game on a point- blank chance from Andrew Yokum. Kleinfelter punch away a good shot on a free kick by Yokum with 17:38 left.
Kaminski stopped a point blank shot by Steven Sekerak with 5:36 remaining.
The Generals' final chance came with 3:20 left when Austin Adams passed to J.J. Fortner. But Kleinfelter stopped Adams' header.
“I was happy to see us play at this level,” Swindel said. “Anthony Wayne is a good squad. But I was disappointed we couldn’t put one of those opportunities away.”
Billings said his team is struggling to find a rhythm offensively.
“We know we can defend and we take pride in that,” he said. “But ultimately as team we need to play both ends. We just aren’t scoring timely goals right now. That’s going to come back and hurt us. The plus side is that we’re still undefeated.”
At the start of the second half, Springfield had three good chances to break the deadlock. Nick Yeager had a good shot right on goal and Sekerak had a follow up.
The Blue Devils’ Alex Lucio had a free kick from 28 yards out but Kaminski made the stop.
Springfield nearly scored on Jalen Shorter’s 50-yard free kick. His shot was knocked down by Kaminski but Sekerak scrambled for the rebound. His shot hit the side of the General net.
Swindel said he put his centerback Josh Siers on Anthony Wayne’s Ben Conkin. Siers blanketed one of AW’s top offensive weapons with one on one coverage.
“This was the first time we worried so much about one person, that we shifted around our defense,” Swindel said. “He took away the player we were targeting. I was real impressed with our defense.”
Conkin had a great chance with a quick shot with 25:18 left. Kleinfelter tipped it out of bounds.
“The biggest thing is that we have the mentality now that we have the potential to be the best team in the league,” Swindel said. “The mentality of Springfield soccer has changed.”