EASTLAKE–Injuries have taken their toll on the North boys’ soccer team this season and the situation worsened for the Rangers during warmups for their Western Reserve Conference matchup with visiting Brush on Tuesday.
Already down several starters, the Rangers lost another during the pregame but North went on to win its first game by beating the Arcs, 4-2.
“We started out playing our schedule, and it’s a brutal schedule, and we’re down four starters and we’re down to our fourth-string goalie,” said North coach Steve Misick. “We’ve just been out of sync. Guys are expected to do more. Luka (Dedic) finally scored tonight, but we’ve been playing him in the midfield for the last couple of games. We only had two subs tonight and we just keep dropping guys. They’re not coming back yet.”
North entered the season with high hopes—and the Rangers remain ambitious—but the early season injury bug has been tough to overcome while playing a daunting schedule that already has included three games against quality opponents who are a combined 8-1 this year.
“I’ve never in all the years I’ve coached had these types of injuries all at one time,” Misick said. “It’s been tough on the kids. The schedule didn’t help but I made the schedule based on a full roster and a solid lineup. It kind of looks like we’re trying to get back into it but we go to North Canton Hoover on Saturday and it’s not going to be easy.”
The Rangers dominated possession in the first half against the Arcs but had nothing to show for it at the break.
Dedic changed that when he split a pair of defenders and fired off a shot at the Brush keeper. The ball deflected off the keeper’s shin guards but Dedic was there to finish off his second-chance opportunity with 25:14 remaining in the game.
Kaden Kocin scored the first of his two goals 10 minutes later to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
“It was just a matter of speed of the game,” Misick said of the Rangers’ second-half effort. “As soon as we picked up the pace a little bit Brush couldn’t stay with us and they finally shot the ball. We have been in a lot of games but we have not been shooting the ball.”
Brush converted a penalty one minute later to cut North’s lead to 2-1 but it didn’t take the Rangers long to respond.
Dan Tadic scored his first goal of the season with 11:57 remaining that again gave the Rangers a two-goal cushion.
Kocin scored again three minutes later to push the score to 4-1.
Brush added a goal with just 32 seconds remaining in the contest to close out the scoring.
Freshman keeper Marko Novkovic recorded four saves in his first appearance in the net.
“He’s going to be a good one but he’s not really a goalkeeper,” Misick said. “He was a goalkeeper when he was 12 years old, but I had nobody else. It was either that or I put Kaden in goal. Kaden is probably our best athlete at every position but we don’t have any choice right now.”
North’s lineup should soon be back to near full strength but it will take the Rangers some time to find their groove after several weeks without many key starters.
“We’ll see what happens,” Misick said. “We’re going to start to get some guys back and we’re thrilled about that but now we’ve got to work them in and try to get the rhythm going again. It’s just a matter of time.”