CLINTON — Matt Hagge wasted no time letting his players know a tie was just fine.
“You just tied the No. 7 team in 1A,” he said as his Clinton boys soccer team huddled around him after a 1-1 game with West Liberty on a cold, damp Thursday night at the Ashford field. “You should be very proud of yourself.”
He certainly was.
“I’m pretty excited,” Hagge said. “That’s the best defensive effort I’ve seen all season. The guys are coming together. We have been switching guys around, and I think we figured out where guys need to be.”
The defensive players were where they needed to be for the most part, and when they weren’t, Paolo Marilim was. Marilim, a senior goalkeeper, made eight saves, most in the second half when the Comets had the stiff wind at their backs.
“I have to thank the defense,” Marilim said. “Without them, I can’t do most of the things I do. It was really a defensive effort tonight.”
The River Kings (2-3-1) held West Liberty (1-1-2) scoreless for more than 60 minutes after Rafael Ibarra tied the game late in the 16th minute with his third goal of the season. That was no easy task against the quick-footed and speedy duo of Ibarra and Raudel Fierro at the front of the West Liberty offense.
“I’m pacing up and down the sidelines, almost ready to have a heart attack,” Hagge said of the feeling he had when Ibarra and Fierro were on the attack.”
Ibarra, who scored his goal when he got between the defense and Marilim on the right side, had a similar chance early in the second half. Fierro deftly handled the ball around the penalty box arc, then passed to Ibarra on the right side of the penalty box. Ibarra took a shot, but Marilim blocked it out of bounds.