|10/27/2017 10:59:00 AM|
Vikings storm back for a second straight section championship, upset Mankato West in opening round of state
Facing long odds with one of their top players serving a red card suspension, the North Branch girls soccer team battled back from a 1-0 deficit in the section championship game to stun top-seeded Cloquet 2-1.
Future Golden Gopher Sadie Harper scored both goals for North Branch, and they got a couple huge saves from senior goalie Claudia Anderson en route to the win. It is their second straight state tournament berth from Section 7A.
The Lumberjacks, who were 17-1 on the season coming into the game, scored just four minutes into the game. They got pressure from their quick sophomoreforward Kiana Bender, and following a scrum in front of the net, a Cloquet player knocked the ball in for a quick 1-0 lead.
The Vikings knew they were in some trouble as offense was going to be hard to come by. Oone of their top offensive weapons, Khyah Harper, is in the middle of a four game suspension for red card violations, and only could watch from the sideline.
But, the Vikings still controlled much of the action. However, the offensive gameplan flowed through Sadie Harper, and Cloquet knew that and keyed on her.
At the end of the second half, Cloquet got a clear breakaway for what would’ve been a back-breaking goal, but Anderson, the senior netminder, made a precise save to keep the deficit at just one.
With 20 minutes left in the contest, North Branch started to press more and they were rewarded off a throw in. The forwards got the ball to Harper, who put some loft under a header towards the net. The Lumberjack goalie back-pedaled to try to track it and jumped at the last second. She got her hands on the ball, but it just barely rolled over them and into the net to tie the game at one apiece.
Just a few minutes later, with both team’s strategies vastly changed, Harper got free down the right side of the pitch. Although she attracted multiple defenders, she weaved through them and curled a beautiful cross shot past the outstretched arms of the goalie and it tucked perfectly into the left side of the net from 15 yards out for the go-ahead goal, sending the mostly pro-North Branch crowd into a frenzy.
North Branch weathered some late Cloquet pressure to hold on for the 2-1 win, sending them to another state tournament bid.
The draw is eerily similar to last year, as they got second seeded Mankato West in Prior Lake in the first round. Last year, Mankato West was seeded third and played North Branch in the opening round in Farmington. The Scarlets beat North Branch 7-1 last year in the first round of state on their way to a second place finish in state. But, this year's results were drastically different, as North Branch upset Mankato West 2-1 in the opening round. It was the Scarlets first loss of the year. For a full story, check out next week's issue of the Chisago County Press.
The Vikings will play third seeded Mahtomedi in the state semi finals on Monday, October 30 at 6 p.m.