Three weeks ago Misssoula Sentinel striker Adam Mickelson piled up three goals while leading the Spartans to an easy 4-1 win over the rival Big Sky Eagles.
Big Sky had a plan when the teams met to cap the Western AA soccer regular season Tuesday. It involved the big body of defender Viktor Lemeza playing the part of Mickelson’s shadow — and the scheme worked.
Well, mostly. The underdog Eagles pulled out the 1-1 draw that felt more like a win.
Lemeza was as close to Mickelson as his own jersey at Playfair Park and the Eagles held the senior to just one goal, a heck of an improvement, Big Sky coach Ross McMonies said.
“We dealt with Adam Mickelson a little better in this game than in the last,” McMonies said. “But it’s difficult to shut down great players. He still managed to get a goal on us.”
In the first meeting, Big Sky played a normal zone mark defense on Mickelson with little success. On Tuesday, well, let Lezema explain:
“Adam got a hat trick in the first couple, like, 20 minutes maybe,” Lezema said of the Sept. 23 meeting. “Oh we don’t want that to happy this time. So they’re like, ‘Nope, we’re just gonna put Viktor on Adam.’ Just follow him around, shadow him. Don’t let him turn (with the ball to the goal).
“That was the main part, don’t let him turn on you,” he emphasized. “Shut him down any chance you can get.”
Lezema was the perfect pick for the job because of his size advantage. The sophomore stands a few inches taller than the 5-foot-9 Mickelson and has quite a few pounds to spare when compared to the dynamic Spartan. And he used that mismatch to affect the game as much physically as mentally.
“Of course, you always want to use your size to your advantage as well,” Lezema said. “Just push ’em around a little, agitate ’em. Just so he’s not focused as much on the game.”
Mickelson’s 12 goals this season lead all Western AA players and rank third in the state. But with league and state playoffs now upon us, perhaps more teams will follow Big Sky’s formula and there won’t be many more scores to come.