Tuscola boys soccer suffered a tough defeat in its conference opener, falling 3-2 to Enka in overtime for its first loss of the season.
The Mountaineers started the game well, taking a 2-1 lead into the last 13 minutes and change of the game, but surrendered a late goal in regulation and bad bounce in overtime.
Despite a tough loss, the Mountaineers (4-0-1), can take pride knowing they battled a tough opponent down to the wire.
“They gave me 110 percent like I asked for,” said Tuscola head coach Ian Meeks. “Fluke goal at the end, I think that second half we could have closed it out and we just had a bad misread on the back line that gave them a second goal. So honestly we probably shouldn’t have been in overtime. And I think our guys showed that we were a little bit tired. We’ve just got to pull through the frustration and move on to the next game.”
After a back-and-forth opening 19 minutes, Enka got the first golden scoring chance of the game after Jets defender Ivan Mojica-Vergara was hauled down inside the 6, leading to a free kick. Mojica-Vergara’s shot was on the money, but goalie Miekell McBride’s timing was perfect to come up with the save and keep the game scoreless.
McBride stopped 10 of 13 Enka shots, keeping his team in the game throughout regulation and both overtimes.
“He kept us in it most of the game,” Meeks said. “That’s the one thing I told the guys. I said, ‘[McBride] made so many good saves; it could have been a lot worse than it was.
“To have one little mental thing is not something to get too upset about. They have to do their job of picking him up after that happens and keeping him in the game.”
Shortly after, Tuscola opened the scoring with a long free kick from senior Davis King that eluded Jets keeper Gavin Vascellaro and gave the Mountaineers a 1-0 lead.
Enka got another good chance to tie it with about 27 minutes to play in the second half, but McBride again dove across for the stop.
The Jets did tie it up less than two minutes later, as defender Jonathan Zavaglia put a perfectly placed shot into the top corer and over McBride’s outstretched hands to make it 1-1.
The Mountaineers answered immediately. Less than 30 seconds later, senior Bryan Rios took the ball into the 6 and buried a sharp-angle shot to put Tuscola up 2-1.
“That’s what we expect,” Meeks said. “I expect my guys to bounce back the whole time and to get themselves back in the game. It really helps shift the momentum back in our way. We just need to settled down on defense and close out games.”
Enka knotted things up again with 13:14 with a point-blank chance that made it 2-2.
The two teams battled back and forth the rest of regulation, but neither could find the net, sending things to overtime.
Enka took its first lead of the game 46 seconds into the first overtime with a high shot from the outside that bounced up and over McBride, putting the Jets up 3-2.
The Mountaineers fought for the equalizer in the second overtime, but could not find it, dropping a heartbreaker in their conference opener.
“[We just need to focus on] finishing,” Meeks said. “Not just the game but on shots, being able to switch fields better and communication.”
Tuscola will next face North Henderson on the road Thursday before heading down the highway to face rival Pisgah next Monday.
“We know that [Enka]’s a good team; there’s no getting around that,” King said. “We’ve just got to push through and we’ve got the biggest game of the year coming up on Monday. So we’ve just got to get ready and put everything into that.”
This article was written and published before Thursday’s match.