324th IS pushes near to the top with win over TFDU

Senior Airman Matthew Gessner pushes the ball forward on a header, before moving in for a score.

Story and photo by Randy Dela Cruz

Sports Editor, Ho‘okele

The 324th Intelligence Squadron (324 IS) got two goals from team captain Senior Airman Matthew Gessner and used a strong defense to take a 3-0 victory over the Thunder From Down Under (TFDU) April 21 in a White Division intramural soccer matchup at Earhart Field, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

The 324 IS, which started off the day in sixth place, is poised to jump up in the standings by a couple of notches after raising its record to 3-1-2, while TFDU, a combined squad comprised of USS Chicago (SSN 771) and USS North Carolina (SSN 777), fell to 1-4-1.

“I think we’ve settled into a more consistent nine,” Gessner said. “We got a couple of quick goals and we capitalized on our speed, as opposed to how we worked the ball, so we need to work on passing the ball.”

Gessner was a key player in the 324 IS’s attack, as he used his quickness and ability to move the ball and advance toward the goal.

His aggressiveness paid off early in the first half, when he headed the ball to the goal and followed up with kick that got past the goalkeeper and into the net to give his team a 1-0 lead.

On the play, as Gessner came toward the goal from the left wing, the defense, including the keeper, shifted to meet him and slow his progress.

Gessner saw a quick opening and blasted the ball to the goal, but had the shot blocked by a defender.

Luckily, the ball ricocheted off Gessner’s shin and sailed to a wide-open spot that was vacated by the goalkeeper for the score.

“I got the ball, looked and said I can beat my guy,” Gessner said. “Somehow, I think when we mashed together, I think he kicked the ball into my shin. The ball looped over and the keeper was off his line. It was really unfortunate for him.”

The goal was the only score in the first half, but coming out of the break, the 324 IS raised the bar to put more pressure on TFDU.

About midway into the second half, the pressure paid off, when Tech. Sgt. Casey Lipe was on the spot to score the team’s second goal of the game.

“The defense made a mistake and I just capitalized on the mistake,” Lipe said. “I just happened to be in the right place.”

With the score at 2-0 the situation looked bleak for TFDU, as the 324 IS was shutting down the team’s attack at midfield.

“It was definitely easier with them down one guy,” Lipe pointed out. “They were getting tired and we exploited that by pressuring and running after them and making sure that they didn’t get any time on the ball.”

Gessner also added that communication was the key that made the team’s defense click.

“It was pretty straightforward,” Gessner explained. ” I think (TFDU) only got one or two shots on goal.”

Finally, Gessner put the game away for good, when he scored his second goal of the game late in the second half.

Capt. Jenna Whetsel set up the goal, as she pushed the ball in front of the pack and motioned Gessner to get open.

Whetsel booted a perfect pass to Gessner, who took care of the goalie on a one-on-one matchup.

“That was all Jenna,” Gessner pointed out. “She set up a perfect ball. I just had to get my touch right and that was it.”

As the team moves up in the standings, Gessner said that while there is much more room to grow, he believes that the team is progressing nicely.

At this point in the season, Gessner said if he could redo anything from this year, he would like to try and avenge the loss that the team suffered at the hands of division leader Navy Information Operations Command (NIOC) Hawaii.

“I’d like a rematch with NIOC,” he said. “I felt like we played really well in the first half, but we let our guard down and that’s when they kind of sucker punched us.”

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Category: Sports