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The 2021 Orono men’s soccer team opened the season with a win against Holy Family. (Photo courtesy All Sports Photography)

The Orono men’s soccer team kicked off the 2021 season against former Wright County Conference rivals Holy Family.

This year Orono will be competing in the Metro West Conference. Orono begins the season with 15 returning players, 14 of whom are seniors. New to the roster are Leo Marzolf, Alex Watschke (seniors), Avery Anderson, Brodie Howe, Jaro Doise & Franklin Schwendimann (juniors). Captains Andy DeWitt, Ben Halloff and Ben Summers were eager to start the season and hope to repeat the successes of previous years.

Last year, the team won the Wright County Conference and Section 6A for the second year in a row but were disappointed when the state championship was canceled. The majority of the team have been playing together since intermediate school and are great friends on and off the field.

Coach Derek Engler returns for his 10th year as head coach with Gregg Katchmark and Neil Vassar as varsity assistant coaches.

When asked about his goals for 2021, Engler said, “We have a lot of returning players this season and the most amount of seniors on varsity in the past 10 years. That experience and senior leadership will help make this team a tough one to beat.”

Grant Steine joins the program as the JV coach, Steve Herrara with the B team and Jono Acosta with the C team.

Orono came out strong with Holy Family on the defensive for most of the first half. After multiple shots and some great saves by the Holy Family goalkeeper, Orono scored when Brody Cook made a short and well placed back pass to Christian Kavanagh who hammered the ball into the net.

With Orono up 1-0 at the start of the second half the game became more evenly matched and Orono’s defense stepped into action. Saves from goalkeeper Peter Nicklow, and strong defending from Cal Ehlen, Sebastian Loder and Jack Tanner headed off Holy Family’s attacks. After many unsuccessful attempts on goal from set pieces, midfielder Andy DeWitt scored from a Brody Cook free kick.

With Orono up 2-0, the game became more physical resulting in multiple yellow cards. Holy Family scored on a penalty kick after one of their attackers was taken down in the box.

Following the penalty kick, Holy Family and Orono were forced to play the rest of the game a man down due to a player from each team receiving a red.

With the weather starting to look threatening both teams battled away on the field. A free-kick by Brody Cook, headed in by Aiden Ecker, made it 3-1 and gave Aiden his first varsity goal.

Multiple cracks of thunder and flashes of lightening stopped the game with seven minutes left on the clock. Orono finished with a 3-1 win.

“Its always great getting off to a good start by winning your first game of the season, especially against a quality rival opponent such as Holy Family,” Engler said. “I thought we moved the ball very well for the first week of the season and I am excited to build off that first win”.

Two other Orono men’s soccer teams played opening games at Holy Family and both came away with wins, The C team won 4-1 and JV won 7-0.

Next up the Spartans host Hopkins on September 2nd at Pesonen Stadium.

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