HANCOCK - The Finlandia women's and men's soccer teams failed to get on the scoreboard in Wednesday's home-opening doubleheader, but the Lions learned a lot of lessons in their losses to University of Wisconsin-Superior that they hope to put to use in inching the programs forward.
The Yellowjackets stung the Lady Lions 3-0 before downing the Finlandia men 7-0 in the nightcap on a beautiful brisk afternoon and evening at McAfee Field.
"I think people here know at Finlandia soccer this is kind of the way it's been for a while and that's what we're trying to change," Lions coach Chris Perez said.
Finlandia defenseman Jessica Ingold clears the ball toward the sideline as a University of Wisconsin-Superior player approaches. Ingold had the Lions’ only shot on net in Wednesday’s 3-0 loss at McAfee Field in Hancock. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Finlandia’s Cody Sivonen, from Hancock, wins a battle for a header against University of Wisconsin-Superior’s Ben Kasper during the Lions’ 7-0 loss Wednesday night at McAfee Field. (DMG photo by Stephen Anderson)
Injury problems and small rosters have hampered Finlandia in making significant progress, and both teams only had one substitute available Wednesday; UW-Superior by comparison brought in eight women's subs and 16 men's subs from rosters of 21 and 29, respectively.
In the women's game, the Lions were outshot 50-1 overall, though the Yellowjackets only put 18 of those shots on net, with FU goalkeeper Alexis Coll saving 15.
Despite completely dominating first-half possession, the visitors took until the 41st minute to find the back of the net when Chelsea Cossin fired a shot in from the edge of the penalty box.
"The women really played well," said Perez, who had to watch the game from a distance after receiving a red card in FU's Saturday game at Martin Luther College. "It was 0-0 until four minutes left in the half. If we had gone into halftime 0-0 I think that would have shut Superior down a little bit and given us a boost, not necessarily to win it, but to get that 0-0 tie. That would have been a big accomplishment."
Finlandia's Jessica Ingold managed the host's only shot of the game in the second half, but UW-Superior's Nichole Casler got the best of the Lions twice during the final 45 minutes.
She buried a rebound past Coll at the 53:07 mark and just six minutes later capped off the scoring with a strong left-footed blast from about 12 yards out into the upper left corner of the net.
The Yellowjackets' impressive possession game prevented Finlandia from being able to get anything going offensively and the game finished 3-0, dropping the Lions to 1-4 on the year.
"We just have so many dual athletes right now whose primary sport isn't soccer," Perez said.
He believes the local high school girls' program created recently will start paying dividends in terms of local recruits.
The men's program boasts two locals in Houghton's Micah Laban and Hancock's Cody Sivonen, but the young Lions' squad was no match for Yellowjackets' mix of ball control and physical, sometimes even chippy play.
UW-Superior only led 2-0 at the half with only a 9-3 shot advantage, but their depth simply wore out the hosts, leading to a 27-2 second-half shot advantage that yielded five goals against Lions' backup netminder Brett Deiter.
"Our goal was a 1-0 win but when it was 2-0 at the half we told them to push - we have to learn how to score goals," Perez said. "We created some chances, but just gave up the ball in the midfield and a good team can counter that with a couple passes and that's what happened.
"But overall, with a backup keeper and a couple guys injured, I think it was a good first game for a lot of these freshmen. I think they played well."
UW-Superior's Ben Royce opened the scoring in the men's game just 5:30 in, and John Levenick made it 2-0 at 20:15 with a highlight-reel bicycle kick from just outside the goal box.
The Yellowjacket style of play frustrated the hosts, who at times got caught up in the way the game was being officiated, but ultimately the frustration stemmed from Superior's superior ball control and wave after wave of fresh substitutions.
Ben Kasper scored four minutes into the final 45-minute stanza and John Levenick quickly made it 4-0 with a penalty kick only a minute later after Finlandia's Wayne Castillo took down Levenick on a breakaway while sliding for the ball.
Tadd Speaks, Nate Engel and Dan Baga capped off the scoring at the 50:57, 56:32 and 78:51 marks. The final goal came just a minute after Finlandia appeared to score its first goal. Unfortunately for celebrating players and 150 fans in attendance, the linesman's flag signaling offsides nullified the tally.
Altogether the Finlandia men (1-3) were outshot 36-5 (17-3 on net), with Alan Arthur tallying two shots, and Nathan Tarango, Will Pasquin and Laban each notching one.
The Lions men and women will travel to Aberdeen, S.D. on Saturday to challenge Presentation College before returning home to face Northland International University on Sept. 21 and Purdue University-Calumet on Sept. 22.