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Travis Kienitz literally keeps an eye on the ball in the second half of Detroit Lakes' season opener against Fergus Falls Thursday on the DL Rotary Soccer Complex. (Brian Wierima/Record)

Fergus Falls wins defensive battle

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Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

There were a few litmus tests passed by the young Detroit Lakes boys' soccer team, but that still wasn't enough as the Lakers dropped their season and home opener against Fergus Falls 2-1 Thursday.

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An Otter goal with seven minutes remaining in regulation pushed the visitors over the top, as Fergus Falls held on for the win, despite a solid performance by the DL defense.

"With over half our defense being new, our defense played well and kept the pressure off our young goalie (Ethan VanOffelen)," said DL head coach Justin Wegleitner. "Our defense kept the attackers off him and kept them off balance.

"We had players playing in new roles and it was a good showing in getting their feet wet for the first time."

VanOffelen, who was making his first varsity start, didn't have much action inside the penalty area, but came out with four saves in the first half and it was tied 1-1 at halftime.

The Laker defense, led by returners junior Nate Friesen and senior Martin Lanning, controlled their zone and kept the Otter attackers away from net.

"I was surprised how well the defense played, since we had a lot of new guys playing back there," said senior captain Cole Neumeister. "We held them to seven or eight shots, it was just unfortunate their last one went in."

Friesen also showed the defense can pull up and score, by notching DL's lone goal in the first half with a long blast from outside the 18-feet range over the Otter goalie, to tie the game 1-1.

"Nate (Friesen) was playing a new role, too, since he's used to playing on the outside, but he stepped up and played well, along with Marty (Lanning)," Wegleitner said.

The Laker attack was stalled by the Otter defense, as well, and couldn't muster enough pressure on net to form much of any good scoring opportunities.

"We just need to move the ball more," said junior midfielder Cody Jordan.

"We don't have that breakaway speed like we did last year, so making the good pass is key."

The Lakers were able to hold possession for at least half the time, with much of the play stuck in the midfield.

"The one thing we didn't take advantage of was our corner kicks," Wegleitner said.

"Those are good offensive opportunities and we need to do better in that regard."

But with about 75 percent of the roster turnaround and a bevy of players seeing their first varsity action, the opener was a good sign for things to come.

"Christian Tigges had a nice game in the midfield and Travis Kienitz was faster today and was showing some high energy from his forward position," Wegleitner said.

"Sam Bergren also stepped in for Cole (Neumeister) well, after Cole was out for a little bit after tweaking his ankle."

The Lakers will travel to Bemidji Tuesday.

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