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Benefield: Montgomery boys leave frustrating 1st half behind in 3-0 soccer victory

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HEALDSBURG — It must have been a heckuva halftime speech by Montgomery coach Jon Schwan.

The Montgomery boys soccer team did everything in the first half besides score. They hit the crossbar. They hit the post. They sailed a couple of shots sky-high. And they forced the Healdsburg ’Hounds goalkeeper, senior Orion Von Rohr, to make a number of athletic saves.

So they could tick all of those boxes, but the scoreboard above Healdsburg’s sparkling — and apparently slippery — new field after 40 minutes of North Bay League-Oak Division soccer Friday night still read 0-0.

But Schwan didn’t go fiery. He didn’t crack a clipboard. He simply pointed some out basic math and perhaps a few rules of thumb for soccer: When you get that many chances, something has got to give.

“At halftime we just took inventory,” Schwan said. “The chances were there. We get one or two of those goals in the first half and we probably feel a little different, so it’s easy to get frustrated. But we just have to stay the course is what I told the boys, and get back to playing a little bit higher tempo.”

Consider the message delivered.

Five minutes into the second half, Vikings sophomore Jack Medin sent a free kick into the box from about 35 yards out. Junior Zack Batchelder flicked it with his head over Von Rohr’s outstretched glove. There was nothing he could do.

It was then that Schwan yelled from the sideline to his players: “Goals change games.”

“What I meant was we have to be prepared for them to maybe come out be a little more aggressive,” he said. “But at the same time, with who we are, when we score, I think we kind of get our mojo going a little bit.”

It got going.

Two minutes later, instead of steeling themselves against an aggressive push by the ’Hounds, the Vikings were again on the attack. Senior Oscar Roque challenged a Healdsburg defender just past midfield, won the ball and had a one on one with Von Rohr. Roque slotted one into the corner to put the Vikings up 2-0.

Seven minutes after that, it was Batchelder again. Junior Oswaldo Rojas sent a pass through to Batchelder, who flicked the ball forward with his chest to keep it away from a clinging defender.

In about two strides, Batchelder had dropped his man and was streaking at the goal alone. It was another one on one with Von Rohr and another Vikings goal.

“He’s a 130-pound wet bar of soap. He’s slippery,” Schwan said of Batchelder. “He’s such a smart playmaker, such a smart finisher. That’s why he has 20 goals this year already.”

The 3-0 win puts the Vikings in complete control of the NBL-Oak. The Vikings are 12-0-2 overall and 5-0 in league.

Herbert Lemus’s ’Hounds did what they could, but the Vikings are simply loaded.

“The result is appropriate,” Lemus said. “They really have everything going for them. They are a complete team.”

And they have been for some time.

The Vikings have won the North Bay League the past two seasons. Of note is that the Vikings are now playing the rest of their games without their dynamic senior, Alan “Momo” Soto. Soto was removed from the squad for breaking team rules, according to Schwan. But by the looks of it Friday, he wasn’t missed.

Junior Kevin Welch started the game at center back but was pushed forward into the midfield early in the first half when the Vikings were struggling to make their passes connect.

“I felt like Kevin really gave us a really calming presence and really good decision making on the ball,” Schwan said.

With Welch partnered in the midfield with senior Alejandro Oliveros, the Vikings’ opportunities soon became goals.

But it was Oliveros’ all-out hustle that helped shut down any opportunity the ’Hounds tried to generate. He was streaking toward the goal in support of a Vikings breakaway one moment and retreating at full pace to shut down a counter the next. If there was a blur of speed and sweat on the field Friday night, it was Oliveros.

“He’s the hardest-working kid in this league, in my opinion,” Schwan said.

It would be easy to say that the Vikings have the league sewn up at this point. They have utterly dominated. The Vikings have now scored 44 goals and allowed just nine in putting together their 12-0-2 record. In league play, they have scored 19 times and allowed four goals.

The Vikings are currently ranked No. 1 among North Coast Section Division 2 schools.

The only team they haven’t yet played in league is Santa Rosa. The Panthers were in second place heading into Friday night’s game but were beaten 2-1 by Windsor to fall to 2-2-1 in league. The Vikings play the Panthers Thursday and again on Feb. 9.

But there is little indication that the Vikings can be beaten before playoffs begin. Their wins have been that dominating.

As he usually does, Schwan fills his preseason schedule with loaded, high-division opponents. Still, the Vikings haven’t dropped a game and have just two ties — a 1-1 draw with Vintage on Dec. 10 and a 3-3 tie at Berkeley on Jan. 3.

If Friday night’s game is any indication, the only team that can stop the Vikings is the Vikings.

You can reach staff columnist Kerry Benefield at 707-526-8671 or kerry.benefield@pressdemocrat.com, on Twitter @benefield and on Instagram at kerry.benefield.

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