It was a season opener without that first-game feeling.
Or at least that’s how Port Huron Northern head boys soccer coach Bryan Becker explained Thursday’s matchup with Marysville.
“It’s a rivalry game with all the emotion and passion,” Becker said. “It’s not something we’d normally start with as the first game, but we’re happy to do so.”
The Vikings visited the Huskies last night for a fun start to the 2022 boys soccer season. In front of a great crowd, the two teams battled through a scoreless first half, although it wasn’t for a lack of shot attempts.
“The biggest thing in a rivalry game is to score the first goal, and we had some nice chances in the first half, but we weren’t able to score the first goal,” Becker said.
And much of that was thanks for Marysville senior goalkeeper Anthony Koza. He had 16 saves on the night to hold the Huskies scoreless through 65 minutes of play.
“Koza kept us in the game when they had a lot of opportunities,” Vikings head coach Scott Parker said.
Koza said defending the net gives him a great sense of pride and motivation as he heads into his final season.
“It means a lot because personally it just encourages me to play harder so I don’t get outworked to support my team and be a backbone in the net,” he said.
As the teams returned to the field for the second half, the Vikings brought new energy that was multiplied after senior Tyler Ross scored the game’s first goal with 30 minutes left to play.
“It was pretty nice. The past couple of years I feel like I haven’t been scoring a lot, so to score in the first game was nice,” Ross said. “It’s great. I feel like I’ve been working hard enough to warrant my starting spot and it means a lot to me to play.”
Parker credited his team’s “never-quit attitude” and said he thought the game was a good first step for the season.
At this point, Marysville held a 1-0 lead and things got a bit more physical – but all in good fun as many of the boys play on travel soccer teams together. At one point, two opponents got tripped up and after helping each other return to their feet, one looked at the referee and said, “It’s OK, he’s my friend.”
But friendship didn’t stop anyone from competing and playing hard. The battle continued until Northern junior Carter Dietrich was fouled and got to shoot a penalty kick with 15:30 left on the clock. His shot was successful to tie the game.
“There’s obviously a lot of pressure, but you’ve just got to go out there and do your thing,” Dietrich said. “t means a lot to have the tying goal. It’s pretty cool."
That would be the last goal of the game, leaving the score tied 1-1.
“I’m really proud of the boys for getting the tie, but for us, it’s a lesson about scoring early in the game and setting that tempo from the beginning,” Becker said.
The Huskies will hit the road to play Anchor Bay tonight while the Vikings will return to action on Monday as they host Cardinal Mooney. Northern, which will play in the MAC-Blue this fall, will start league play in a few weeks on Sept. 7 against Clawson. Marysville will start league play within the MAC-Gold against Roseville on Aug. 31.