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September 22, 2019

Rhinelander’s Hugh Wiese clears the ball away from Wausau East’s Tucker Normand during the first half of a boys’ soccer game at Mike Webster Stadium Saturday, Aug. 31. The game was the first played at the stadium since it was converted to artificial turf. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
Rhinelander’s Hugh Wiese clears the ball away from Wausau East’s Tucker Normand during the first half of a boys’ soccer game at Mike Webster Stadium Saturday, Aug. 31. The game was the first played at the stadium since it was converted to artificial turf. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
9/3/2019 7:30:00 AM
Hodag soccer drops first games on new turf

Jeremy Mayo
Sports Editor

The Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team christened the new artificial turf surface at Mike Webster Stadium Saturday, but the housewarming party did not go the way the Hodags planned.

A last-second goal cost the Hodags a draw in a 3-2 loss to Wausau East in the first game of the Hodag Invite. Waupaca dominated the afternoon game and knocked off the Hodags 4-1.

Crews put the final touches on the new field on Friday night and the Hodags were on it right away in the morning. The new field was fast, springy and took some time to get used to, according to RHS coach Nathan Bates.

"It was great. The field looks good. The guys did a great job of putting it down and the kids are real happy," he said. "It's great. That's all I can say. It's new. It's different. We're not used to playing on it yet, but the field itself looks beautiful."

Wausau East 3, Rhinelander 2

The first game on the new surface had a crazy ending.

Jeremiah Schroeder converted a penalty kick with no time remaining on the clock as Wausau East defeated Rhinelander 3-2.

Official Manny Gutierrez deemed Harrison Shinners fouled Wausau East attacker Alek Zavadoski just inside top right corner of the penalty box and awarded the penalty kick to East. Schroeder tucked the ensuing kick just inside the right post for the game winner.

"It's always hard to lose a game, especially when two goals in the game from the other team were on PKs," Bates said. "It's always tough, especially when there's such a short amount of time left in the game."

The Hodags' angst at the end was further aggravated amid some confusion after Wiese was issued a yellow card in the 78th minute of the 80-minute match.

The Rhinelander bench was not immediately made aware of the booking and was unable to sub in a player for Wiese before the game resumed. Rhinelander played the final 2 1/2 minutes with only 10 players as a result.

Despite conceding two penalty kicks, and being outshot 26-10 in the match, Rhinelander found itself level late in the proceedings after Wiese caught Benjamin Reif flat-footed and snuck a ball past the falling goalkeeper in the 76th minute to tie the game at two.

The Hodags made the most of their few offensive opportunities. Massively outplayed the first 15 minutes of the game, Rhinelander was first on the board with its first real scoring chance of the match. The Hodags got a corner kick after a free kick by Wiese. Wiese took the ensuing corner and found Joseph Heck on the back post for a redirection and a goal.

"Joseph finished off that corner with a header and it was beautiful, right time, right place. It was picture perfect," Bates said.

East squared the match in the 28th minute as Zavadoski drew a foul for contact at the top of the box and made the subsequent penalty kick. East took the lead in the 35th minute as Carter Cygan put home a rebound following a scrum in the box.

Ostermann made 11 saves in defeat for Rhinelander. The Hodags registered only six shots on goal.

"They did outshoot us but I'd have to say we had more possession time with the ball," Bates said. "They definitely had more shots on net."

Waupaca 4, Rhinelander 1

The Hodags succumbed to Waupaca's speed and pressure up front, falling to the Comets 4-1 in a rematch of a regional final game that Waupaca won in overtime.

A pair of Keenin Polebitski goals gave the Comets a 2-1 lead at halftime and the tacked on two more goals in the final 12 minutes of regulation.

"We did very well the first half," Bates said. "The second half, the kids, I don't know what happened. The kids, it just seemed like they were tired."

Bates theorized fatigue may have been a factor for the team as it was outshot in the contest 45-7.

"It's possible, two games of soccer in a day is a lot and it seems like the boys weren't quite ready for it to play two full games," he said.

Polebitski's first goal came in the 16th minute as Bryce Boldt slotted a ball through the Rhinelander defense to put Polebitski on a breakaway and Polebitski finished inside the left post.

Wiese recorded his second goal of the day to tie the game in the 24th minute, a shot in space from more than 30 yards away that snuck just underneath the crossbar. Polebitski put Waupaca back ahead in the 37th minute as a deflected crossing pass came to him in space roughly 10 yards out and he struck a shot with pace inside the left post.

Waupaca dominated shots and possession in the second half, but did not score again until the 79th minute when Dawson Patzke shot a ball from 35 yards that Ostermann deflected, but not enough to steer it away from goal. Boldt tacked on the final goal in the 86th minute.

Ostermann finished with 12 saves in the match as Waupaca owned the shots on goal category 16-3.

Rhinelander (0-3-0) will look to shore up its defense prior to today's Great Northern Conference opener at Northland Pines.

The Hodags have allowed double-digit shots on goal in each of the first three contests.

"The kids look like they're getting some chemistry, but it's back and forth," Bates said. "The kids look like they have chemistry, then they don't. Then they do and they don't. I'm hoping by next week, before we play (Northland Pines), the boys will have a little more chemistry on the field together."

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at

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