Van Wert senior Tanner Dunn hugging his teammates as he exits the game on senior night. Dunn had several saves during the 1-0 loss to Defiance. (DHI Media/ Reid Maus)
Van Wert senior Tanner Dunn hugging his teammates as he exits the game on senior night. Dunn had several saves during the 1-0 loss to Defiance. (DHI Media/ Reid Maus)

VAN WERT — A few days removed of having one of their worst showings of the season, Van Wert responded with their hardest fought match all season.

“We spent a lot of time talking since our last game, and the message is effort,” said the Cougars head coach Matt Hernandez. “Last game I said that the team who played harder won. Tonight I would probably say that was the opposite.”

The Cougars dropped their senior night and final regular season game to Defiance 1-0.

The match came to it’s emotional peak in the 78th minute when the Cougars had their best chance for the equalizer. Jake Lautzenheiser and Dylan Brayton were on the attack. Lautzenheiser dribbled up the right side of the field and was able to beat-out the play of the defenders just in time to get a shot off that rebounded off the goalkeeper and into the lap of Brayton. Brayton put up a right legged kick that was goal bound, but a Bulldogs’ defender was able to make a absolutely miraculous goal saving header. That header changed the direction of shot just enough to sail right of the goal. As the ball traveled past the net you can hear, and feel, the wind of excitement being taken out of the fans in the stands.

“I knew we wanted to try something different and get some attack going,” said Hernandez. “They are two of the top players on the team and we took the chance of putting them together and it almost worked out for us.”

“Their defense-man made a goal saving header, which some days the ball bounces your way and sometimes it bounces of the head of defenders and out of the goal,” said Hernandez with a sarcastic hue.

The Cougars attacks were rare but when they did occur. Getting shots on the keeper and corner-kicks that didn’t produce any goals, but showed how hard Van Wert was fighting.

With Thursday’s game being senior night Van Wert a couple of Cougars got their first start of their career. Of that bunch, Tanner Dunn, who started in the net had a career day. Making a handful of fantastic saves in the 60 minutes he played.

“Tanner has been with us for a long time even before he was in high school he was always involved in soccer,” Hernandez said of his senior goalkeeper. “It is truly a passion for him. He is good for us, and we are good for him, and to see him have such a good game tonight— I’m really proud of him.”

“What people don’t understand is that this high school game expires,” Hernandez said reflecting on senior night. “You think you have plenty of time, but one day you wake up and you realize that today is the last time I get to play on my home field. I’m glad these brought the effort they did, because they will remember this game.”

Van Wert will play at St. Marys on Monday starting at 5.