Jeep soccer season ends in regional semifinal

Brandon Merkel (left) and Marshall Knies of Northeast Dubois go up for a header on a corner kick during Saturday's Providence Regional semifinal against the host Pioneers. (Photo by Greg Mengelt/News and Tribune)


CLARKSVILLE — All good things must come to an end, and that is what happened to Northeast Dubois boys soccer’s season Saturday as the Jeeps lost 3-1 to Providence in the Class 1A Providence Regional semifinals.

It concludes a campaign in which the Jeeps (16-3-1) won their second sectional title — the other came in 2014 — and included two different stretches during which the boys captured at least five matches in a row.

But even Cinderella’s carriage turned back into a pumpkin, and the clock struck midnight on the Northeast Dubois season during a sunny afternoon on the regional host’s field.

Fresh off of their sectional championship win against Forest Park, the Jeeps came out with a lot of energy, but it was clear that they had difficulties matching the solid fundamental technique of the Pioneers (12-6-3).

Every time the Jeeps tried to muster an assault on the Providence goalkeeper, one of the Pioneer wings would find away to cut off the shooting lane or intercept a pass to push the ball the other way.

This caused the Jeeps to get a bit sloppy in their play, as they were anxious to create offense. The risky plays led to penalties, which Providence was able to capitalize on with two goals on free kicks.

“I think their nerves got to them,” said Northeast Dubois coach Clive Williams as he assessed his team’s performance after the game.

Williams did his best to pull his team together for a comeback effort in the second half. The Jeeps did make things interesting for the fans, as senior midfielder Brandon Merkel was able to find a bit of daylight and score a breakaway goal to cut Northeast Dubois’ deficit to 2-1 13 minutes into the second period.

But that was as close as the Jeeps would get, as Pioneer senior forward Pierce Arvizu scored another goal with 21 minutes remaining to extend the lead for Providence.

At that point, the game turned into an extended exercise in keepaway, with Providence using its superior ball skills and control to nullify any attempts on its goal.

Merkel said the Jeeps gave it their all, but they were simply outclassed by a better opponent.

“We played hard, we just didn’t have our stuff today,” he said. “This is one of the better fundamental teams we played all year. We all played hard, but they were technically better than us. It just wasn’t our day.”

Williams was a bit more curt with his analysis. He tried to mask his frustration with the result, acknowledging his team’s exceptional season while voicing disappointment that it ended in the regional semifinal game.  

“Tactically we looked to switch things up straight away, but we didn’t keep the momentum going,” he said. “Great season; not the finish that we wanted.”

Merkel said the moment may have overcome the team, but he gave credit to Providence after the game for playing and executing its game plan.

“I think nerves maybe played a little bit into it,” he said. “We knew the team we were playing was pretty good tactically. They play a tough schedule, we just didn’t come out with our best game. I’m happy for our team. This team always works hard, (and) I’m just glad to be a part of this team.”

And even though the Jeeps were sad not to advance in the postseason, Merkel chose to look at a silver lining and reflected on the year as one of the best of all time in the history Northeast Dubois soccer.

“I think we had the best record to ever come through this program,” he said. “Me and Alan (Kerstiens) now are two of the top scores; we broke a few records. We all worked hard, and we have a great group of seniors. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”

Williams can only look forward to next season, as he implored his returning players to use the summer for sharpening their skills for the next soccer campaign. He said he believes the talent will be there to make it back to the regional round, adding that he hopes the Jeeps won’t be undermined again by their fundamentals.

“Tactical abilities as a team, we got some good individuals, some good players,” he said. “But on the tactical side of things, the guys are not as aware as some other teams.”

Merkel will graduate this spring, but he hopes the season can serve as both a lesson and source of motivation for the underclassmen as they move forward next season.

“I’m not going to be here next season, but I hope all these guys learn from our senior class and they carry it on,” he said. “I hope the program has success in the future.”

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