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HHS soccer bounces back with win

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Coming off back to back losses by a combined 8-1 -- including a 5-0 loss to Dodge City in its home opener on Thursday -- the Hays High School boys' soccer team needed something borderline miraculous to happen in order to restore belief in itself.

After falling behind 1-0 early to visiting Great Bend on Tuesday, something did happen -- a midfield-length, free kick goal by senior Eirik Legernes.

"I could tell some of the guys were already thinking, 'Here we go again,' " Hays High soccer coach Saul Hernandez said. "That got us back into the game and lifted some heads up. It gave us belief. It got the players playing as hard as I know they can."

The goal by Legernes came in the 20th minute and helped jumpstart an inspired effort by the Indians, who would go on to defeat Great Bend 3-2 for their first conference win. It also avenged a 3-1 loss at Great Bend from Sept. 16.

The goal followed an unassisted goal by Great Bend's Michael Prieto in the 10th minute.

"I heard coach say I had to get it on goal, and that's what I did," Legernes said about his free kick. "The goalie was way too far out. It went in. I didn't know it was going directly into the goal. It just happened."

Great Bend responded when Mariel Castillo scored less than 10 minutes later, a floater from the left side that just carried over the head of Indian goalkeeper Sheldon Sulzman.

Instead of folding like they did against Dodge City, the Indians started to play like a team that wanted to win, and believed it could.

"I told them before the game that we needed to bounce back after losing two in a row," Hernandez said.

"At first, we started out slow like we have been. But the guys bounced back after being down two times in the game and that shows some character."

Hays High senior Lane Clark tied the game at 2-2 just before the half, splitting defenders for a goal after junior Nathan Romme's pass set him up for the score.

The second half was a battle, and Great Bend had many opportunities to score. The Panthers' best chance came about nine minutes into the half when Joaquin Garcia's shot bounced off Sulzman in goal and out to Great Bend's Emmanuel Poblano, who's own shot bounced harmlessly off the cross bar.

Great Bend finished with 14 shots on goal to only six for Hays High.

"Our mistakes killed us and that's it," Great Bend coach Gustavo Prieto said. "Especially in the first half, we controlled the ball and moved it wherever we wanted. But the mistakes, especially the first goal on the free kick. The keeper just missed the ball."

And it was a mistake that cost the Panthers the game, with Romme being the benefactor for Hays High.

In the 52nd minute, Shawn Herrman led an Indian attack and had a shot on goal end in the hands of Panther goalkeeper Edgar Garcia, at least for a second.

The ball squirted through his hands and roll behind him, where Romme was waiting to tap it into the net from point-blank range.

"That's what we've been taught -- to follow up," Romme said. "It just popped out of the goalie's hand and I was right there."

The defense took care of the rest, shutting out the Panthers in the second half to preserve the 3-2 win.

Not only does the win end a two-game skid, it gives the Indians something to fight for the rest of the season. Hays High is 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the WAC, with a non-conference game at Buhler coming up on Thursday.

"It's a big win for us. It gets our confidence back and gets us back into WAC contention," Hernandez said. "It feels good to finally see the guys stepping up and doing their job. Now we can build on that win and hopefully get better so that at the end of the season we can finish off strong."