9/12/2017 7:28:00 AM Lakeland drops two more on the soccer pitch
Dean Hall/Lakeland Times
Lakelandís Justin Evenhouse attempts to play a ball, but it bounces off Medford defender Andy Poetzl during the first half of a Great Northern Conference game on Thursday, Sept. 7, at River Valley Bank Field.
Lakeland Union High School endured a brutal week on the soccer pitch in a variety of ways.
The Thunderbirds capped a stretch of three games in four days with a Great Northern Conference game against Medford at River Valley Bank Field on Thursday and a trip to Michigan to battle Kingsford on Friday afternoon for a non-conference tilt.
Medford 2, Lakeland 1
Lakeland had a chance to put an end to its losing streak on Thursday and finally get a win in GNC play, but a quick start by Medford put the Thunderbirds in a hole right away.
The Raiders got a pair of goals in the first 20 minutes that would wind up being enough to hand Lakeland a 2-1 loss.
"They were playing very direct with a couple fast players and we got caught ball watching and they attacked very hard," LUHS head coach Jim Mullen said. "We gave up a couple opportunities where they just forced it on us and they had a couple guys that were quicker than the players playing against them. Instead being smart and covering early they got past us."
Kieran Mullen returned to the lineup, but was clearly limited in what he could do because of a leg injury which has kept him out since the season opener.
He did, however, score the team's lone goal of the game on a direct kick early in the second half after a handball by the Medford goalkeeper while he was out of the box.
Lakeland had a chance to score again late in the game on the exact same play, this time from less than 20 yeards out, but Justin Evenhouse's kick sailed just over the crossbar in the 84th minute. Mullen had a chance again less than a minute later, but his kick from a tough angle went wide.
"There are simple choices, simple options," Jim Mullen said. "There's a really simple option to give the ball to somebody who's open and we just continue to frustrate ourselves."
The loss drops Lakeland to 0-3 in the GNC, which is likely an insurmountable hole to dig out of to make a run a conference championship.
Jim Mullen is not particularly concerned about the conference standings at this point, he just wants to get his team back on the right track.
"I'm not even thinking about the conference right now, I'm just trying to get the team back in groove," Mullen said. "Kieran played tonight at maybe not even half speed ... (Medford) played really hard until then end. We had a couple of opportunities towards the end. We just have to figure out how to be smart, play with the appropriate intensity early and just make things simpler for ourselves."
Mason Holmquist made six saves in goal for Lakeland.
Kingsford 8, Lakeland 1
Things didn't get much better on Friday for Lakeland as it was forced to take a long trip to face a tough team without four starters due to a plethora of previous commitments.
The result was an 8-1 thumping to give the T-Birds their fifth consecutive loss on the season.
"The score was not indicative of the play overall, but we went down there undermanned without four starters and then Justin (Evenhouse's) ankle acted up," Jim Mullen said. "We played a lot of reserves and two JV players. We just gave up some real easy goals in the back, lost marks and gave them easy opportunities. We were tired going in and it showed."
A tough call by the referee which Mullen deemed questionable resulted in a penalty kick for Kingsford and took Lakeland out of sorts in the first half and the result was a 5-0 deficit at halftime.
The T-Birds were able to regroup in the second half and had some scoring chances early, but the lead was insurmountable.
"The referee gave away a very bad penalty kick against us," Mullen said. "Compared to the two games we played this week, there was definitely nothing there and it took the kids out of the game for a while. We came back in the second half and we played much better for about the first 25 minutes and then fatigue was just too much. We gave up a couple late goals, but it's a part of young kids learning to be mentally tough and work through adversity. When you're tired it's harder to do that."
Mullen did like the way some of his reserves and JV players contributed in the game. He also touted the play of Sam Hiller after he requested to play in the defensive middle against Kingsford and excelled.
There is little rest for the weary as Lakeland faces another week ahead that features two games and the team's invitational next Saturday. The T-Birds begin the week today against Amherst at Portage County Soccer Complex, starting at 4:30 p.m.
Nick Sabato may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @SabatoNick.