Van Wert senior Quinton Rutkowski (right) collides with a Shawnee forward after clearing the ball during play on Thursday night. Van Wert lost a 2-0 decision to the Indians. (DHI Media/John Parent)
Van Wert senior Quinton Rutkowski (right) collides with a Shawnee forward after clearing the ball during play on Thursday night. Van Wert lost a 2-0 decision to the Indians. (DHI Media/John Parent)
DHI Media Sports Editor
VAN WERT — When building a program, sometimes you have to measure success in different ways. While the Cougars didn’t come away with a win as they hosted Shawnee on Thursday evening, Van Wert did a lot of things well in the 2-0 loss.
“Overall, I thought our guys played much better,” Van Wert coach Matt Hernandez stated after the game. “We’re getting closer to playing how we need to. There are going to be steps to be taken all year long. I like our chances if we keep playing the way we did today.”
In an effort to get his best healthy athletes on the field, Hernandez opted to move Brant Henry from his normal keeper position, so Henry could use his speed and ability on the field. In his stead, the Cougars tabbed sophomore Austin Sudduth to start in net.
“We’re still working a lot of guys back from injury,” Hernandez said. “I decided today to pull Brant out and play him on the field, and that helped.”

The young Cougar netminder was under pressure throughout the day, but was beaten only twice. Sudduth made 10 saves on the night.
“I thought Austin Sudduth played great in goal,” said Hernandez. “He was under fire; he almost had to play like a field player, because we were tired and they had a lot of speed up top.”
In addition, Sudduth made things difficult for the Shawnee attackers on several occasions, when he vacated the net to challenge a potential breakaway. That cause Shawnee to try its shots from much farther out on the field than they would have liked.
“A lot of people might think that was over-aggressive (Sudduth’s challenges of the Indians offense), but I teach my keepers to do that,” said the Cougar head coach. “Really, if they just stay back, they’re just a sitting duck. Maybe two times out of 10 the defense will recover, but a lot of times it’s 1-on-1.”
Though the Cougars didn’t get a shot off in the game’s first 40 minutes, they did hold possession in the Shawnee end for much of the first half.
“We were in their half (of the field) tons in the first half. Zero shots, but we played in their half,” Hernandez noted. “I liked what did there, I liked the possessions we had in their half, which was better than what has been happening (this season).”
The Indians finally got on the board at 9:28 of the first half when junior Jonathan Andrews got free in front of the goal and blasted one past Sudduth to the far corner.
In the second half, the Cougars had two terrific chances to score, but couldn’t find the net.
At 32:34, Cougar senior Joe Lisa took a shot that was deflected by a Shawnee defender and found the foot of sophomore Brandon Hernandez directly in front of the net. Shawnee keeper Logan Spieles, however, came out to make the save at point-blank range.
The Cougars had another try with just under 20 minutes of action remaining when Andrew Perry took a free kick from 42 yards out. The ball was sent into the box and Hernandez once again came free, but couldn’t settle the ball and the opportunity was missed.
“It was a great opportunity, we pressured hard in their end, created a turnover for us, and it just didn’t go in,” Coach Hernandez added. “You can create a lot of offensive opportunities, even up the field, just playing strong defense and pressuring hard. A lot of people think that defense is just the guys in the back, but really you play defense at all 11 positions.”
In the meantime, Shawnee extended its lead when Nicholas Hoffman got loose from and shot one past Sudduth from inside of 10 yards.
The Cougars return to the pitch with an 11 a.m. start at Fort Jennings on Saturday.