Boys soccer: Eagles, Blue Demons halted by rain

Apr. 2—ALBIA — It took just over a minute for Theo Hugen to find the back of the net on Monday night.

It took just over nine minutes later for Mother Nature to strike the decisive blow in the high school boys soccer match between Pella Christian and Albia.

Lighting officially arrived Monroe County in the 10th minute of the first half with the visiting Eagles leading the Blue Demons in a battle of teams looking to get to 2-0 on the season. Both teams will get that chance this week after having Monday's game halted, and ultimately called off, as lightning and thunder was followed by steady rainfall that forced the game to be called off with the Eagles leading 1-0 following Hugen's strike on the first attack of the match.

"We started off well on the front foot and got that first goal in," Pella Christian head boys soccer coach Mike Vander Molen said. "We kept the ball and kept a little pressure up front.

"They saw a little bit of lightning and decided to delay it. I thought we might still be able to get this one in, but they ultimately decided to cancel it."

Pella Christian could have put more goals on the board in the short amount of time the teams played on Monday. Ethan Van Arendonk and Camden Parker both had a pair of shots in the opening 10 minutes with Van Arendonk missing on a breakaway shot just over the cross bar in the sixth minute.

"We came out like I thought, which was a little flat," Albia head boys soccer coach Matt Johnson said. "We were not as focused as I thought we needed to be. We came out in our first match of the season against Clarke very purposeful and very intent on executing what we needed to execute.

"I think we let nature kind of dictate our play in this match. We played a little more timid than what we had been. Mistakes happened. We got down 1-0 because of a simple mistake that we can clean up. It won't happen again."

Despite the slow start, Albia began to get chances making runs into Pella Christian territory shortly before the lightning delay. Keeping the Blue Demons within a goal early as sophomore goal keeper Jaxon Strickler, who made two saves on shots by Van Arendonk and Parker.

"He's still pretty raw, but Jaxon does a great job for us back there," Johnson said. "He's just a heck of an athlete. That's kind of what we told him when he started playing soccer last year. He plays shortstop in baseball. Just play the ball like you play the baseball on the infield. Keep it in front of you."

Strickler made nine saves in his season debut last Tuesday in Albia's 2-0 win over South Central Conference rival Clarke. Goals in the second half by Connor Fisher and Gavin Shaffer ultimately allowed the Blue Demons to open their season on the right foot.

"We look forward to every opportunity that we get to play," Johnson said. "We've been injury-riddled over the past several years. We're still dealing with some injuries at the start of this season, but every kid is taking advantage of the opportunities they get to be on the field. We've got some kids playing out of position and new kids playing in unknown areas. We're just taking it all in one game at a time."

Pella Christian, meanwhile, opened their season with 4-0 win over PCM last Thursday. Much like in Monday's rain-shortened match, the Eagles jumped on top early in their opening win scoring three goals in the first half with four different players including Parker, Van Arendonk, Caue Baston and Nathan Brouwer showcasing the explosive ability of a team hoping to ultimately produce its first winning season in seven years.

"We emphasize in training to play wide, play as a team and play a little possession," Vander Molen said. "We try not to put any arbitrary goals on the season. We just try to build up in our training sessions, build up in our games, get better day by day, play better as a team and play more for each other. We'll see where that takes us."

The remainder of the week for Pella Christian includes home matches with Newton and Clarke. Albia, meanwhile, hosts Knoxville in SCC action on Thursday.

— Scott Jackson can be reached at Follow him on Twitter@CourierScott.