OTTAWA – Oftentimes when two teams meet for the second time in a season, the previous winner may struggle while their opponent has a chip on their shoulder and the mindset of getting a little payback.
That was the case during Monday’s opening-round Interstate Eight Conference Tournament match between host and fourth-seeded Ottawa and No. 5 seed Morris on the King Field pitch at Ottawa High School.
The Pirates held a 1-0 lead at halftime, but scored five times in the second half to advance with a 6-0 victory. Ottawa had previous defeated Morris by the same score on Sept. 1.
Senior forward Gio Resendez converted a pair of penalty kicks and also scored three more times for an eye-popping five tallies to put his season total at 40 and his career mark at 91, while teammate Brian Diederich found the back of the net just three minutes into the second half to give the home team a two-goal lead.
Ottawa (13-3-1) will now play top-seeded Sycamore, the Spartans a 9-0 victor over Sandwich, at a time and date to be determined, while Morris (5-11-1) will host the Indians at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday.
“Once we were able to get that second goal early in the second half, I felt it took a little wind out of their sails and gave us a little bit of life.”— Ottawa coach Jeff Davis
“Once we were able to get that second goal early in the second half, I felt it took a little wind out of their sails and gave us a little bit of life,” said Ottawa coach Jeff Davis, his club holding a 23-13 overall shot advantage, including 13-4 in on-target attempts. “We sputtered in the first half, and even after the PK had trouble staying in the flow.
“We really just started playing more soccer in the second half, stringing more passes together as a team and not just kicking the ball to kick it. We played with purpose and more ball control the final 40 minutes.”
Morris controlled much of the ball possession and field position in the opening half, but a nice carry into the box by Ottawa’s Alexander Houk created a foul and ensuing penalty kick, which Resendez fired into the bottom left corner past Morris keeper Ivan Escatel (four saves) in the 26th minute.
“I felt we played a solid first half, actually a really good first half, but the second half was a tough one for us.”— Morris coach David Valdivia
“We do not have any seniors on the team and only four juniors ... we are a very young team,” said Morris coach David Valdivia. “Sometimes with a younger team, there is a lack of consistency of keeping the good things going. That will come in time for these guys in the coming years. The team played hard from beginning to end, but we just couldn’t carry over the energy from the first half into the second.
“But the bottom line is, you have to score to win, and we didn’t today. Because of that, we weren’t able to get any momentum going. I thought we were OK even after their PK in the first half, but then once they got the second and third goals early in the second half, you could see our heads drop. I felt we played a solid first half, actually a really good first half, but the second half was a tough one for us.”
Diederich’s goal came on a turnaround shot from the top of the box after an initial shot was blocked and rolled right to his feet. Morris had its best chance of the match just minutes later, but Ben Salzman’s hard shot from 35 yards out was blocked away by Ottawa keeper Jackson Damron (four saves).
In the 48th minute, Ottawa’s Evan Snook was taken down in the box after out-hustling a pair of Morris players to the ball, and again Resendez scored low left to make it 3-0.
But the Ottawa scoring machine was far from done.
Resendez collected a loose ball in the 53rd minute, then dribbled through and around a trio of Morris defenders before firing a 15-yard laser into the back of the net for the hat trick. He then – after a Morris foul – scored his fourth goal on a 25-yard direct kick around the Morris wall in the 58th minute before heading in a perfect crossing pass from Jonathan Sczewczuk three minutes later to close out the day’s scoring.
“Gio is just such a tremendous player and makes so many smart plays during the course of a game,” said Davis. “He struggled a bit in the first half with getting clean touches, but he really got things going in the second half. Once he found his feet and got into the flow, he was on point.
“He just makes everyone around him better.”