FORT MADISON - Yes... and no.
That was Fort Madison boys' soccer coach Kevin Wellman's answer to a bevy of questions after the Hounds pulled out a 2-1 win over Williamsburg Tuesday night in the season opener at Baxter Sports Complex.
The Hounds won in a 4-3 penalty kick session after senior Jacob Pothitakis, who missed about half of last season with a torn ACL, blew a shot into the upper left corner for the win.
Oliver Santiago’s save with the penalty kick session tied at 1-1 helped give the Hounds the upper hand.
Was this the type of game he wanted to open the season for the Bloodhounds?
"Yes...and no,” he said. “No because it's nail-biting and no, because it’s our first game. But yes, because now we're a lot more seasoned.”
Santiago held the Raiders scoreless until a ball got away from the Hounds' defense off a header and was picked up on a break down the left side. A shot from left across the front of the north goal slipped past Santiago and into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead with 10:26 left in the game.
Fort Madison would answer when senior Xander Wellman, who was also sidelined his junior year with an ACL injury, fired a shot from about 20 feet out center on an assist from Pothitakis to tie things up at 1 at the 4:28 mark.
Both teams would go scoreless the rest of the way through the regular session forcing a 10-minute overtime session. Neither team would score in the first session or a second 10-minute session, which led to the penalty kick shoot-out.
Fort Madison took an early 3-1 lead with Leif Boeding, Henry Graham, and Xander Wellman all scoring on the first three kicks in the OT session. Santiago would step out of the keep after blocking one of the Raiders' shots to take his own penalty kick, which would go wide left.
Williamsburg would score on a soft shot to Santiago’s upper left to tie things at 3-3 in the session.
Kevin Wellman said he had given a lot of thought to having Santiago not only keep during the penalty kick session, but also shoot.
“I thought about it, but he’s a strong shooter. Was his attention divided a bit? Maybe, but he didn’t miss by much, I think he went wide left, so next time he’ll be more confident and dialed in a little better. So again, yes…and no.”
Fort Madison’s Pothitakis had the last shot to win it for Fort Madison and knew he was going. "Before I shot, I told myself I was going left and stuck with it into the upper left corner,” Pothitakis said.
The senior battled cramps most of the second half and said it was mostly due to lack of conditioning and fluids.
Several Hounds battled cramping on the field, including Xander Wellman and Henry Graham.
“It’s just conditioning," Pothitakis said. “We need to do better getting more fluids in.”
He said the win was a great way to start the season.
“This is huge with all the injuries and everything we've had to go through. It's big for our team and we couldn't have done it without every single person out here.”
Kevin Wellman said the defense played much better than expected considering the lack of chemistry on that side of the field.
“Layne Rung played center back and he and Nathaniel Swigart, our veteran back there tonight, had good chemistry. That helped a lot. Noah Swigart playing left back most of the game, had really good chemistry with Jacob Shottenkirk at the outside mid. Lots of really good passes there,” Wellman said.
“It was a complete team effort. We played really well at all positions, and everybody played selfless, with strong confident passes.
Wellman said the cramping did bother him a bit.
“It does concern me a little, but Xander and Jacob haven’t done a lot since last season. There’s things you can do with diet and fluids. They are multi-sport athletes and sometimes I think they just forget.”
Xander Wellman said he remembers two years ago against Burlington Notre Dame his first game on varsity at home.
“I got the ball, like, first half and turned and missed it wide, which would have won the game for us. So it feels really good to be able to equalize in this game and start the season above .500 for the first time in, like, eight years,” he said.
Santiago had nine saves on the night in 70 minutes of work. Connor Gehling had 30 minutes and two saves. Wellman had two goals on the night.
The Hounds are 1-0 (0-0) and host Burlington Notre Dame on Monday at Baxter Sports Complex.
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