Jovani Perez-Sanchez

New Richmond senior Jovani Perez-Sanchez will serve as a Tiger captain this season along with classmate Jack Burmood. File photo

After winning 15 games and reaching the WIAA sectionals in a shortened 2020 season, the New Richmond boys’ soccer team is excited to get the 2021 season started.

The Tigers opened their season on Monday, Aug. 30,, hosting Superior. It was a physical, back-and-forth game, with Superior scoring the last goal to win 3-2. The Tigers return to action Thursday, hosting Eau Claire North in the Tigers’ first official game in the BRC.

Superior scored 15 minutes into Monday’s game. The Tigers matched that goal when Cohen Hare scored on a penalty kick.

Superior scored seconds into the second half on a penalty kick. Again, the Tigers answered. This time Charlie Gess scored off a sweet pass from Aidan Westmoreland.

Superior scored the final goal after a Tiger foul later in the second half.

Coach Daran Blattner said the Tigers did many things well, but said the flaws were noticeable and correctable.

“We made five mistakes and they cashed in on three of them,” Blattner said.

Monday’s match came after both of the Tigers’ games scheduled for last were postponed. The Tigers were scheduled to play in a quad event at Menomonie last Tuesday, but it was cancelled because of a shortage of officials. Friday’s scheduled home opener against Marshfield was postponed due to inclement weather.

The Tigers defeated Menomonie and River Falls in the WIAA playoffs last season before a 1-0 loss to Hudson ended their season at sectionals.

Five seniors graduated from last season’s team, including Middle Border Conference Player of the Year Michael Benedict, who earned honorable mention all-state honors. The Tigers bring back a class of nine seniors who will be the core of this season’s hopes.

The move to the Big Rivers Conference this season is a significant step for the Tigers, but they’ve played many of the BRC teams in recent seasons. Jovani Perez-Sanchez and Jack Burmood are returning seniors who will serve as the team’s captains. Hare, Westmoreland, Robert Schleicher, Derek Hildebrandt, Simon Neblich, Quinn Moore and Mac Rueben complete the senior core the Tigers will be built upon.

Blattner said rebuilding the defense is one of the early challenges after three starters graduated from that area.

“The kids are looking forward to the challenge,” Blattner said of the shift to the BRC. “We’ve got a good senior group to lead us.”

Three juniors who will be part of the revamped midfield this season are Reily Heiberg, Andrew Blattner and Gess.

One position where the Tigers will likely be playing underclassmen is in goal. Freshman Zaylin Sweet and sophomore Tayler Pinx are the top two options as the varsity keeper. Coach Blattner said Hildebrandt has also been working at keeper, but the coaches would prefer to have Hildebrandt playing in the field if possible.

The move to the BRC takes up half of the Tigers’ schedule. Much of the remaining schedule is against teams that join the Tigers in the WIAA Division 2 sectional tournament bracket. The Tigers will play Sparta, Onalaska, Holmen and Tomah as non-conference games, along with River Falls and Menomonie from the BRC who are also in the Division 2 bracket.

The Tigers will close the regular season in October with games against a pair of their former Middle Border Conference rivals, Somerset and Baldwin-Woodville.

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