Growing pains catch Tigers
MIDDLEBURG — With a relatively young team such as the one East Juniata has, some growing pains can be expected — especially this early in the season.
Losses, tough ones in particular, can also be very effective learning experiences.
In the case of Monday’s nonleague matchup with undefeated Midd-West, East Juniata was taken to school when the Mustangs posted a 6-0 victory at Sports Boosters Athletic Park.
“We spoke postgame a little bit about this, I said, ‘We’ll take these (losses) early in September, and hopefully by the end of October we’ll build on these kind of games,” East Juniata coach Brian Watts said. “Because we’ll run into that kind of speed and tenacity (like Midd-West’s) in districts, if we can get to that point.
“There are some bright spots. A loss is a loss, and a 6-0 loss hurts, but the kids are fighting and they’re not quitting,” Watts said. “But, yeah, that was a steamroll there.”
Adding to the Tigers’ frustrations on the night was the fact the Mustangs took a 2-0 lead just six minutes into the game.
Devan Leister scored both goals to get Midd-West (5-0) off to an early lead, along with taking East Juniata (1-2-1) out of its game.
“It took us out of our game, and we haven’t seen that kind of speed and ball control this early in the season,” Watts said. “And that is a very fast team, and all of their passes were with purpose. There really wasn’t a pass that we could intercept.
“Midd-West is well-coached, and they are well disciplined.”
The Mustangs began pulling away even further when Carter Knepp tallied a goal and an assist to push Midd-West’s lead to 4-0 just 15 minutes into the game. Knepp’s assist came on a goal by Evan Liddington.
“I thought we started off with a lot of intensity, which is great and what we talked about (prior to the game),” Midd-West coach Chris Sauer said. “I’m really pleased with that first half. That first half was fantastic.
“We have kind of a rap of being slow starters the past couple of years, but this group has scored a lot of early goals this year,” Sauer added.
An unassisted goal by Dustin Casner, scored on a mistake by East Juniata goalkeeper Mike Ryan on an attempt to clear the ball near the net, wrapped up the first half.
Casner then helped Leister secure a hat trick by assisting on the latter’s third goal with 12:29 remaining in the game. The goal came on a header by the senior midfielder.
“Devan is probably one of the most underrated players in the area,” Watts said. “He can finish. He’s slick and he’s shifty. Give him some space and he’s going to finish.”
In addition to Leister’s prowess around the net, Midd-West’s outside game essentially did East Juniata in on Monday.
“We thought that we could really go at them on the outside, and I think our speed on the outside in the first half was what kind of killed East Juniata,” Sauer said. “EJ is going to bring it physically no matter who they have, and they are a solid team who will be a tough out in Class A in districts.
“So, to win this game 6-0 is a great result for us.”
Midd-West 6, East Juniata 0
MW–Devan Leister (Evan Liddington), 38:21; MW–Leister (unassisted), 33:52; MW–Carter Knepp (Logan Shoemaker), 25:40; MW–Liddington (Knepp), 24:39; MW–Dustin Casner (unassisted), 1:43.
MW–Leister (Casner), 12:29.
Shots: MW 14-3. Corners: MW 3-2. Saves: MW-2 (Ethan Knepp, Chase Roush); EJ-4 (Mike Ryan, Andrew Hunter).