Pickens’ hat trick, Eikenberry’s 2 goals help Rochester beat Valley
Ruiz notches hat trick, but Vikings can’t overcome slow start
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Zach Pickens scored three goals, and Eric Eikenberry tallied twice to lead the Rochester boys soccer team to a 6-1 home win over Tippecanoe Valley Wednesday.
Rochester scored three times in the first 14 minutes and extended the lead to 4-0 at halftime.
R.J. Keranko also scored for the Zebras on a header in the initial three-goal burst. Mitchell Shafer had three assists, and Layne Backus and Adam Maroney also had a helper.
Jon Ruiz scored for Valley on a penalty kick with 23:17 left.
The hat trick gave Pickens, who is Rochester’s career goal king, 69 career goals.
Rochester was coming off a 3-2 loss to Peru on Monday, and that loss led to a heart-to-heart chat among the players and coaches on Tuesday.
“Believe it or not, practice yesterday wasn’t really practice,” Rochester first-year coach Elmer Roque said. “It was more of an hour of sitting down and discussing what is going on, where we are struggling at, and what we can do better as a team. It was a nice conversation, a lot of emotion. And that led to today. It led to fire.
“We talked about heart and desire of winning a game and past history, not necessarily here but experiences and past teams. And it worked.”
Valley was coming off a 4-0 win over Culver on Monday but struggled from the start. Valley coach Andrew Luce said Rochester was “no question” the more physical team and added that “they took it to us.”
“We’ve had some breakdowns in the back line that we’ve worked on in practice throughout the season,” Luce said. “But they continually crop up early in games. Right now, we adjusted the lineup. We went back to our original lineup. And really, we were playing teams that were bigger, stronger and more athletic, and we really had trouble in the back.”
Rochester had lost four of their last five coming into the game. Pickens said they were on a “bad streak.” A hat trick on senior day ended that streak and provided a pleasant moment.
“We didn’t even touch the field,” Pickens said of what happened Tuesday. “We sat in the little storage shed, and we just talked about soccer and the things we needed to do as a team. We had the skills before. It’s just mentally we weren’t there. … If you looked at any of our past games, they were worlds quieter than what we did this game. Everybody was communicating and working well together.”
Pickens said he describes Roque’s coaching style as “tough love.”
“He does care about us, but man, he gets on our butts sometimes, and this time it worked,” Pickens said. “So you’ve got to give him props.”
Valley was playing a style that emphasized long through balls and long kicks over Richester players’ heads. Roque said that was similar to the style that Peru exhibited two days earlier.
“One thing we learned from the last game, Peru, was they did the same thing,” Roque said. “And I was the first one to tell the boys that as a coach, I failed a little bit because I didn’t catch on to it early on in the season. Coming from coaching other teams, they would know to switch from a flat-four to a sweeper-stopper. These guys were hesitant. … Once I told them, ‘Hey, if you read it and they are doing balls over your head, switch to a sweeper-stopper. That way, we have coverage back there, and they’re not beating us. And that happened today. We expected it. A lot of teams play it. And these guys got it.”
Watch full game here: