Apr. 21—It was fitting that one of the Eau Claire North boys soccer’s handful of veterans saved the day on senior night.
Sparta was in an attacking mode with just a few minutes remaining in Tuesday’s contest, looking to complete an impressive comeback from down 2-0 at the halftime break. And the Spartans looked primed to accomplish the feat when a shot got through Caden Eberle, giving Sparta’s Brian Sanchez a chance at another shot from behind the Husky keeper.
Thankfully for North, defender Tyler Albrecht was in perfect position. He sprawled out to make a desperation save, preserving a 2-2 draw between the teams.
“All I knew was that (Sanchez) was fast,” Albrecht said. “I was like, ‘I just have to get to the back of the net.’ I saw Caden coming out and I thought I better support him.”
That support was greatly appreciated.
“I’m always thrilled to be able to rely on Tyler,” Eberle said. “He can always bail me out on anything, really.”
While the last minute move was celebrated, there was some understandable frustration from North about the final outcome given the way the Huskies opened Tuesday. The offense did well to create numerous chances in the first 45 minutes, burying a pair. But Sparta pushed back to somewhat avenge a 2-1 loss to North earlier in the year.
“That’s a young team learning,” North coach Terry Albrecht said. “A little overconfident after you get a two-goal lead. It’s probably the most dangerous lead in soccer because you start to relax a little bit and all of a sudden you get a goal scored against you. Now you’re behind the 8-ball, now you put a little pressure on yourselves.”
After a handful of strong early opportunities for the Huskies, Presley Clay got the team on the board in the 22nd minute. He took a perfect cross from Elliott Solberg from the left side and quickly hit it high into the back of the net.
Joshua Jahn doubled the lead in the 42nd minute, deking past a defender to get off a shot that Sparta goalie Matthew Richards got a piece of, but not enough to halt it from passing the goal line.
But Sanchez scored twice to get the Spartans back in it before nearly pulling off the hat trick in the final minutes. Both his tallies came with assists from Adam Thompson, with the second leading to some questions on the North bench about whether or not Sanchez was onside.
The Huskies were able to get a trio of strong opportunities to take the lead back in the last five minutes but weren’t able to capitalize.
“We had the open looks to finish, we just didn’t,” Terry Albrecht said. “There were probably five or six times where we had an open net to shoot at and we put the ball to the outside. Sparta, they had maybe four really good chances the entire game and they finished two of them, which is a feather in (Sanchez’s) hat. He’s a good shooter.”
North honored its seniors, a small class of just four, during halftime. The group, consisting of Albrecht, Jahn, Connor Jol and Eliot Gannon play an important role for a team made up predominantly of underclassmen.
And with such a young roster comes youthful mistakes. Sometimes a lead will be lost. But it’s a learning experience.
“When you have youth and inexperience, it takes games like this to grow,” Terry Albrecht said. “It’s stuff we work on continuously in practice.”
The Huskies will hit the road on Thursday for their next contest, a 7 p.m. meeting against La Crosse Central.
Eau Claire North 2, Sparta 2
Sparta 0 2 — 2
North 2 0 — 2
Goals: 1, North, Presley Clay (Elliott Solberg), 22nd minute; 2, North, Joshua Jahn (Connor Jol), 42nd minute; 3, Sparta, Brian Sanchez (Adam Thompson), 66th minute; 4, Sparta, Brian Sanchez (Adam Thompson). Shots: Sparta 11, North 17. Saves: Matthew Richards (Sparta) 8, Caden Eberle (North) 6.