Boys’ soccer: Goal in 64th minute hands Bow first loss of season

By ERIC RYNSTON-LOBEL

Monitor staff

Published: 09-16-2023 10:16 AM

BOW – For most of the 80 minutes played between two unbeaten teams on Friday, neither Bow nor Lebanon seized momentum to its side. Both had chances – the visiting Raiders even hit multiple crossbars – but neither could capitalize until seemingly out of nothing, Lebanon’s Otto Bourne buried a shot into the top left of the net in the 64th minute. The lone score wound up the difference in the Raiders’ 1-0 win.

Under first-year head coach Josh Smith, the Falcons have mostly showed nothing but promise so far in 2023. Though Friday’s outcome wasn’t what his team hoped for, hanging with an opponent as talented as the Raiders should serve as a confidence boost moving forward. 

Here are three takeaways from Bow’s 3-1-1 start to the season:

Defense continues to be a strength

Through five games this season, the Falcons have allowed just two goals total. One came Friday, and the other came in their 1-1 draw with Oyster River on Tuesday. The stifling defense has been a key reason for the strong beginning to Smith’s tenure.

Though it faltered briefly on Friday (and also received some help from the post and crossbar), holding a Lebanon (7-0-0) team that entered play averaging over four goals per game to just one reflects the team’s strength in that area.

“We just have an experienced senior group back there, our goalie (Aaron Barrieau) and then the three center backs (Brodie O’Neil, Wes Michaelis and Austin Beaulieu) that we have,” Smith said. “Throughout the season, we've known what the opposing offenses are going to do, and then that's helped us dictate our game plans and set us up so that when we are facing that, we can try to prevent those attacks and everything.”

Focus turns to ramping up intensity

The biggest difference between Lebanon and Bow on Friday, Smith said, was a matter of intensity. Not that Bow lacked it; Lebanon just put itself in better positioning to win the 50-50 balls, and in a tight battle, that was the difference.

“It was really just learning to see how far we need to go,” Smith said. “They were first to the first balls, second balls, had a little more fight, so I think that's something that we need to work on for sure.”

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How does he plan to address that with his team? It all starts with enhanced focus during practice.

“I think you just have to elevate the intensity of practices, making everything matter,” he said. “Every drill, every second that we’re there is valuable, and we need to make sure that we’re focused and driven and using this as motivation to get better because I think we can reach that level, but we just need a bit of work to get there.”

Bow has already proven to be a top team in Division II

While a win for the Falcons over the Raiders could’ve produced a huge momentum boost, having the chance to take stock of where they are relative to a team also at the top of Division II could bode well for them come playoff time. Bow has already beaten Kingswood – last season’s runner up – and taken Oyster River (6-0-1) to a 1-1 draw.

Friday’s result wasn’t as satisfactory, of course, but Smith would certainly rather have his team’s shortcomings crop up earlier in the season with lots of time to improve before the playoffs begin. The team’s 3-1-1 start also serves as an indicator that they’ve found ways to win games without playing their best soccer just yet.

“Initially, we’re in a good spot,” Smith said. “I think what we’re trying to see improve on is the fight and the effort that they show, winning first balls, getting to everything. … We’ve had decent moments where we’ve been tested, and those are the moments that, when you get to the playoffs, you can pull from and see in those different environments what you did and how you stood up.”

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