Currie makes immediate impact in Cougars' season opener
WHITEWATER--Zach Currie waited more than a year to return to the soccer pitch.
On Tuesday, the Janesville Craig senior needed less than 15 minutes to remind fans just how much the Cougars missed him last season.
An honorable mention all-Big Eight Conference selection as a sophomore, Currie suffered a knee injury shortly before his junior year began.
In his first varsity athletic competition since his surgery, Currie scored twice, including once in the 14th minute, and the Cougars opened their season with a 3-0 nonconference road victory over Whitewater.
"I had a heck of a time out there; it was awesome," Currie said. "This is my first sport in over a year, so I'm happy with the results.
"It was the hardest thing I've ever went through, but it really strengthened me as a person."
Whitewater keeper Alex Vidalez thwarted an early scoring chance for Craig, stopping a free kick in the 10th minute.
But the Cougars broke through four minutes later. Sophomore right back AJ Anhold pushed forward up the wing and dealt the ball inside to senior Raul Tello. Tello fed Currie, who beat one defender and then found the back of the net.
"He made an immediate impact," Craig coach Garrett McCabe said. "He's an intimidating person to the other team. Just look at the guy--he's tall, and you wouldn't expect him to be as fast as he is."
The Whippets settled in from there and had a chance to knot the match in the final minutes of the first half. But Craig keeper Tyler Bienema stuffed a penalty kick to preserve the clean sheet. He had four saves in the match.
Each team had second-half chances. The Cougars hit the crossbar twice in a span of 11 minutes and were whistled eight times for offsides on the night. Whitewater had a header sail just over the bar off a crossing pass in the 66th.
"The first 15 minutes were rough for us, but the second half of the first half was really good, and the first half of the second half was really good. We just couldn't get anything in the net," Whitewater coach John Chenoweth said. "We kind of knew he (Currie) is the guy it's coming to in the middle. ... But they pass the ball really well on the ground. So if you're trying to mark him, you chase everyone else."
Tello and Currie connected again at 83:15 to give the Cougars some cushion. Fifty seconds later, Tello got a goal of his own with a thunderous strike from just inside the 18-yard box to make it 3-0.
"I just had faith that I'd get back out there, and I had a good night," Currie said. "I feel like this is the strongest team we've ever had. Today shows it. We missed a lot of chances and still won 3-0."
Currie and the Cougars will get another chance to see exactly where they stand Thursday. They host Elkhorn, which reached the WIAA Division 2 state championship match, at 6:30 p.m.
CRAIG 3, WHITEWATER 0
Janesville Craig 1 2--3
Whitewater 0 0--0
C--Zach Currie (Raul Tello), 13:39.
C--Currie (Tello), 83:15. C--Tello, 84:25.
Shots--Craig 26, Whitewater 10. Shots on goal--Craig 10, Whitewater 4. Saves--Tyler Bienema (C) 4, Alex Vidalez (W) 7. Fouls--Craig 8, Whitewater 8. Corner kicks--Craig 5, Whitewater 3. Offsides--Craig 8.