NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. – Trailing Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference rival Anderson University 1-0 early in the second half of a key conference clash at Good Field, Manchester University head coach Corey Brueggeman was looking for a power source.
No, he wasn't searching for an outlet, a power strip or even an off and on switch around the grounds of the Spartan Soccer Complex Wednesday, Oct. 3.
"Energy was what we talked about (at halftime) … a spark from the guys on the field," Brueggeman noted. "(Energy) had to be there in pressing and winning the ball, even in second chances. The way the wind was today was crazy, so an extra step was required (from everyone) to stop (Anderson University) from getting too far forward. We knew they were a good team, and this match could have gone either way."
After a scoreless first 45 minutes in which senior goalkeeper Justin Meredith (Shelbyville, Ind.) and his counterpart, the Ravens' Adam Mrzlak, were forced to make strong saves to keep things level, each side's offensive output was turned up to 10 in the second half. AU struck in the 46th minute, but the electricity Brueggeman and his staff hoped for came roaring in over the final 27 minutes. Senior forward Jared Wondergem (Hudsonville, Mich.), sophomore forward Josh Gonzalez (Portage, Ind.) and senior forward Drake DeWitt (Columbia City, Ind.) all blasted shots past Mrzlak, with Gonzalez' being the eventual winner, during a much needed 3-1 league victory.
"We'd had opportunities in the first half but they were just halfway done," Brueggeman noted. "We needed to be more clinical with composure in the box to finish. The guys know we treat every conference match like it could be the last one of the season … they are so important, as we want that top four finish again to get back to the tournament. There are a lot of good teams (in the HCAC), so we have to come out and play hard every time."
Meredith made the final Black and Gold flurry stand with four saves against five AU shot on goal tries. Wondergem guided the shots category (three), and Gonzalez turned in a three-point afternoon with an assist added to his goal.
The Spartans (3-7-1 overall, 1-1 HCAC), stopping a six-game winless string, continue conference action with another important clash Saturday, Oct. 6. Transylvania University comes to North Manchester for a 3:30 p.m. kickoff.