But Norwalk junior Will Gehlhausen believes the key to success is reacting to neither.
Gehlhausen scored a goal in the first half off an assist from freshman Cam Shoop, but had a wide open shot deflect off the post late in the Monday’s match vs. Sandusky that could have served as insurance.
But the Truckers made the lone goal stand in a 1-0 win over the Blue Streaks at the Norwalk Soccer Complex. With the win, Norwalk improved to 7-1-2 overall and 5-0-1 in the SBC Lake Division, good for first place. Vermilion also has no losses and tied the Truckers last week.
“Sometimes the ball doesn’t want to go in,” Gehlhausen said of his shot that did everything but touch the back of the net. “There’s not really frustration when you miss a goal, it’s just get back on defense for the next play.
“Same thing with the goal … enjoy it for a moment, but you have to get back and play,” he added.
Even then, Gehlhausen thought he may have misplayed the ball on the lone goal of the match.
“I saw the defender came up on me, and I heard Cam going on the right side and just played it to him,” he said. “But I played it a little too far for him. Luckily, he got a foot on it, bounced up and it came to my foot and I put it in.”
The match itself played out as a surprise. On Aug. 26, the Truckers cruised to a 5-0 win over the Blue Streaks in Sandusky.
But with under a minute to go on Monday, there was Tyler Clark in net making a save as the Truckers held on for dear life despite a 15-4 advantage in shots on goal.
“I think Sandusky came at us with a lot of pressure and intensity,” Norwalk coach Jon Kijowski said. “We have to learn to play with a target on our backs with us being in first place. That’s kind of a new feeling for this group.
“But they just have to be ready,” he added. “Sandusky did a good job and had a few chances, but … I told our boys that I think we got away with one today.”
Nonetheless, Monday’s win was the sixth shutout of the season for the Truckers, which has all come in the last seven matches.
Since a 6-0 loss at Mansfield Madison on Aug. 22, Norwalk has outscored eight opponents by a 36-3 margin.
“I love shutouts, and I think our defense came up big in those final minutes when Sandusky was pressing hard,” Kijowski said. “Tyler played really well in those final minutes to make those saves.”
In 10 matches this season, Gehlhausen has already scored 17 goals — including four hat tricks (three goals in a match).
Gehlhausen credits a big offseason and his teammates’ ability to find him in the open field. Kijowski added that his upperclassmen in general are wiser, stronger and faster — led by Gehlhausen.
“Those whole junior and senior classes coming in last year, they didn’t have a lot of experience — and it showed,” Kijowski said of last season’s 5-11-1 record. “But entering this season, they did have that experience that you hope to lean on.
“With an extra year, we got bigger and stronger, and we could compete,” he added. “And that goes for Will. He got stronger, faster and his experience helps him. It goes along with that whole junior and senior class.”
Norwalk gets right back into league action on Wednesday when it visits Tiffin Columbian.