The Blair girls soccer team lost three games due to field conditions and flooding during the opening weekend of the spring sports season.
Countless more matches, games and meets were either postponed or canceled as Nebraskans tried to dry out and get their lives back to normal after natural disasters along the submerged banks of some of the state's major rivers.
The Blair boys soccer team, though, was able to get its season started Saturday at Omaha Benson, going 1-1 in a doubleheader against Omaha Northwest and the Bunnies. First-year Bears coach Emanuel Maldonado was thankful for the opportunity, especially given the circumstances.
“Very fortunate,” he said. “Obviously, we hope everybody in those towns are safe and everything is worked out there so people can get back to their homes.”
Blair defeated Northwest 3-0, but fell to Benson 2-1.
“But, definitely very fortunate,” Maldonado continued. “I know a lot of teams around the state weren't able to play today.”
The Bears' season started with a goal just 3 minutes in. Gabe Zurek squeezed one around the goalkeeper with a corner kick to give Blair an early 1-0 advantage against Northwest.
“It was a nice way to start the season,” the sophomore said. “I wasn't meaning to go to the goal, it was kind of an accident, but it just kind of went in.”
The Bears' second goal came 25 minutes later when Isaac Smith tallied an assist, passing it off to Trey Lewis in a two-on-one situation. Lewis found the back of the net to give his team the 2-0 lead going into the break.
The score stayed that way until the second half when Brody Karls put Blair up 3-0 on a shot from the edge of the box. The score stood — as goalkeeper Ryan Brunkhorst and his defense notched the clean sheet — and coach Maldonado officially had his first win.
“That was our first time on a field,” he said in reference to his team's mandatory gymnasium practices up to this point. “I thought the boys did very well. We had a lot of shots on goal.”
Benson, however, jumped early at the opportunity to get ahead of the Bears in the match that followed just 20 minutes later. The Bunnies scored during the second minute and then again in the 34th when a long free kick skipped through Brunkhorst's mitts.
“Second game, you could just see we were not ready for an outdoor game back-to-back,” Maldonado said. “I think we played well, even that second game, we just couldn't get it into the back of the net.”
Blair did finally score with 2 minutes left in the match when Zurek collected a pass from freshman Kaedon Anderson, maneuvered and scored from deep inside the goal box.
“I'm sure our boys are very conditioned now,” Maldonado said after the Bears played two complete games in less than 4 hours.
Now, Blair must join the rest of the state and see if any of their upcoming matches are postponed by flood cleanup. Monday's game at Waverly had already been called by Saturday afternoon.
“Really fortunate,” Zurek said when asked how he felt about getting two matches — one win and one loss — in at Benson, while others did not.