Two-goal losses are rarely accompanied by a feeling of encouragement, but that was the sense surrounding Seymour’s boys soccer team following a 2-0 defeat to Bloomington South on Saturday.
After starting the season with difficult defeats to Jasper and East Central, Seymour head coach Matt Dennis overhauled his lineup, moving players around the field and bringing in options off the bench.
The result on Saturday was a step in the right direction. The Owls (0-3) were the assertive side during the opening 10 minutes and kept a talented South squad, which defeated No. 12 Center Grove two days earlier, scoreless in the first half.
Despite a rash of nagging injuries to key players, Seymour stayed within a goal of the Panthers (3-0) during the contest’s first 68 minutes.
South’s C.J. Santiago scored the match’s two goals. The senior’s first came in the fourth minute of the second half on a close-range shot from the right side. The second was scored with 11 minutes left when Santiago beat a Seymour defender in the Owls’ penalty box and knocked the ball into the right corner.
Though still a loss, Dennis left the field feeling positive about his team’s effort.
“The intensity was there,” he said. “If you look at today’s match compared to the other matches that we’ve had, our guys were in a better shape. It got better, just not good enough. Just got to keep working.”
Dennis said he was pleased to see that the changes in the Owls’ lineup resulted in a noticeable improvement in the team’s play.
“With the new lineup, I thought the first 10 minutes went really well,” Dennis said. “We’re trying to get guys in the middle to compete and stay a little more connected. Today, we had some good, positive combination play in the middle. We were together in our attack and in our defense, as well. We defended well, and that led to better shape in our attack.”
Led by goalkeeper William Smith and a back line consisting of Sam Chandler, Brody Unterseher, Jake Loebker, Jaret Dominguez and Logan Westfall, the Owls forced South’s attack to settle for shots outside of the penalty box.
Though the shots were from a greater distance, several required a diving, outstretched Smith to make several spectacular saves, particularly in the first half.
“If not for Will, they probably would have had three or four goals,” Dennis said. “That’s what he does for us. He keeps us close. With 10 minutes to go, it was still a 1-0 game. Credit also the guys in front of him who forced (South) to take shots from distance.”
Smith ended with 12 saves on 17 Panther shots.
“That’s the fun about being a goalkeeper,” Smith said. “Games where you don’t touch the ball aren’t as much fun. If I didn’t get to make saves like that, I wouldn’t want to be a keeper.”
The senior said Saturday provided a boost for the Owls, who will get a chance to take a next step on Tuesday when they host Silver Creek.
“We did so much better today,” he said. “It’s a big deal to step up and compete against a team like (South), especially after the last two games.”