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home : sports : sports
November 23, 2017

11/3/2017 2:03:00 PM
NORTH BRANCH UPSETS MANKATO WEST, PLAYS AT THE BANK
It was pandemonium in front of Mahtomedi's net after Sadie Harper knocked a goal in early on in the state semifinals to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.
It was pandemonium in front of Mahtomedi's net after Sadie Harper knocked a goal in early on in the state semifinals to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.

North Branch 3, Mankato West 2
Sadie Harper converted a penalty kick with 19 minutes left in the second half to give the #7-seeded Vikings a 2-1 lead and the Vikings held on for a 2-1 win over the Mankato West Scarlets in the opening round of the state high school girls’ soccer tournament.  The game was played in ideal conditions Wednesday, October 25 at Prior Lake High School and sent the Vikings on to the state semifinal game Monday, October 30 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

In the 14th minute, Ms. Soccer McKenna Buisman put a thru ball onto the foot of Ashley Gustavson.  Gustavson put the ball in the lower left corner of the net and the Vikings trailed 1-0.  In the 33rd minute, Sadie Harper fed Savannah Linkert at the top of the box.  Linkert ripped a shot over the goalkeeper’s head, but it banged off the crossbar and was knocked away.  The Scarlets led 1-0 at the half.

In the seventh minute of the second half, Savannah Linkert received a throw-in deep in the Mankato zone.  She carried the ball around a couple of players into the left side of the Scarlet box.  Linkert slid the ball through to Harper, who put a touch on the ball, moved around a defend to the right and rolled it into the net to tie the game at 1-1.

Mankato had a couple more decent chances, but again hit the crossbar and then sent a shot just wide of the left post.  In the 21st minute of the half, Sadie had a nice run down the right side and was tripped as she ran past a Scarlet defender in the box.  The referee awarded the Vikings a penalty kick.  The goalie guessed left and Sadie buried it right down the middle to give the Vikings a 2-1 lead.  After that, play was back and forth as Mankato ramped up the intensity and the Vikings strove to protect their slim lead.  The Scarlets showed a bit of panic.  Rather than working the ball in close to give their best player, Buisman, a chance to tie things up, they took most of their shots from 25 yards or more.  Anderson would make the easy save or the Viking defense would knock the ball out of harm’s way and the Vikings would kick the ball into the other end, making Mankato work to get it back upfield.  When the clock ticked down to zero, Viking parents, students and other fans streamed down onto the field to celebrate the Vikings’ opening round upset over the tournament’s number two seed.

The Vikings talked about the 7-1 loss to this team in the state tournament last year a lot over the past week.  Harper said “That game made us want to work ten times harder this year.  It made us a lot more confident.  We just forgot about last year and came in as a new team.  We knew we could do it.  We all trusted each other, out coach believed in us and we just kind of worked together as a team.”  Viking senior captain Keeley Ertl said “We worked so hard and that is definitely the most fun we’ve ever had as a team.  After we took the lead, we knew that we needed to work that much harder.”

Anderson played a very focused game in the nets, making some nice saves and making good decisions about when to come out to challenge potential shooters and when to stay back.  And she made some nice saves.  She said “when they scored first, we knew we couldn’t keep our heads down.  We needed to keep on fighting.  And I think that really helped.  We played really good as a team.  And since I knew this could be my last game ever as a senior, I really wanted to play well for my team.”

Mahtomedi 3, North Branch 2
Despite being dominated by the Mahtomedi Zephyrs in the semifinal game of the state tournament, the Vikings took advantage of both of their scoring opportunities and were tied 2-2 heading to the end of regulation.  But the Zephyrs headed in a ball off of a corner kick with three minutes left in the game and beat the Vikings 3-2.  The game was played at U.S Bank Stadium Monday, October 30.  The Vikings once again had to play without star forward Khyah Harper, who was serving the third game of her four game suspension for getting her second red card of the season.  The loss sent the Vikings to the third place game against Visitation Tuesday, October 31 at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Mahtomedi hit the left post just 30 seconds into the game and kept up the pressure.  Viking goalkeeper Claudia Anderson helped to keep her team in the game with some key saves.  She also raced toward the top of the box five or six times in the first half, each time barely beating an onrushing Zephyr to the ball.  The Vikings’ first opportunity to score came in the 23rd minute.  A corner kick by Savannah Linkert, went through the goalie’s hands, and bounced off Sadie Harper and into the net to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead.  In the 29th minute, a Mahtomedi free kick from the left of the Viking box skipped off the top of the crossbar.  A few minutes later, Zephyr forward Sonia Meyer got into box against three Viking defenders, got around all of them and put it in from about eight yards out to tie it at 1-1.  And with just 25 seconds left in the half, the Vikings got a free kick from the 45 yard line.  Keeley Ertl lofted it in the box.  It hit the goalie right in the breadbasket and rebounded to the right.  Kalianna Brahs was  right there and knocked it into the open left side of the net to put North Branch up 2-1.  The Vikings had just three shots on goal in the first half, but scored twice.

The Zephyrs evened things up just three minutes into the second half.  One of their forwards carried the ball into the box from the right, walked toward the net and put it in front.  A shot by Sydney Panek was blocked by a North Branch defender, but it bounced a few feet to the left and Abby Schultz tapped it into the net to tie the game at 2-2.  Throughout the second half, the Vikings got several free kicks from near midfield and Kelley Ertl was able to put the ball deep into the Zephyr zone each time.  But Mahtomedi was able to defend each time, knocking the ball away before the Vikings could gain control.  Late in the half, a Zephyr player and Anderson raced for the ball bouncing toward the Viking net and Anderson dove right at the top of the box and corralled the ball to preserve the tie.

But with 3:51 left in the game, Zephyr Audrey Sexson took a corner kick from the right corner.  She put the ball right into the center of the box and Meyer got her head on the ball and blasted it into the net for a 3-2 lead.  The Vikings didn’t seriously threaten in the last few minutes and went down to defeat.

Ertl said, “We had watched the film of when Mahtomedi played Bemidji.  It helped us to focus on how we were going to play and how we were going to achieve our goal.  They definitely came out to play, but it was very back and forth.  We played very aggressively compared to past games and stuck with them.  And it helped that we have a lot of confidence in our goalie, Claudia Anderson.”

Visitation 2, North Branch 0
The Vikings, who had to play an intense, highly emotional game that didn’t end until 9:30 the previous evening, hit the field for a 10 a.m. start on Tuesday, October 31.  They looked tired in the first half.  They were also playing without either of the Harper sisters – Sadie was out with an ankle injury suffered with 45 seconds left in the previous night’s game and freshman Khyah was serving the final full game of her four-game suspension.  Since the Harper’s accounted for most of the Viking offense this season, offense was at a premium for the Vikings without either of them playing.  Visitation scored twice – once late in the first half and once late in the second half – to beat the Vikings 2-0 and claim third place in the state tournament.
Katherine Jones scored on a breakaway for Visitation with six minutes left in the first half for a 1-0 lead.  “During our halftime talk,” Ertl said, “we pulled it together and came out after halftime ready to play.”

The Vikings did play better in the second half, although Visitation still had most of the scoring chances.  Early in the second half, Viking goalkeeper Claudia Anderson leaped to tip wide a nice shot that appeared headed for the upper right corner of the net.  On the ensuing corner kick, Visitation sent the ball right into the middle of the box to a wide open player.  But from 10 feet in front of the net, she shot the ball over the crossbar and the score stayed 1-0.

In the 13th minute of the half, a Visitation shot hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced straight down.  It did not hit over the line and a Viking defender came in and knocked it out of harm’s way.  In the 30th minute of the half, a Visitation shot from about ten yards out appeared headed for the inside of the right post, but Anderson stepped over to grab the ball and keep the score at 1-0.  Visitation finally put the game out of reach in the 76th minute.  They put a corner kick into the middle of the box.  The ball bounced around in the box for about ten seconds before Mary Jurich knocked it into the net to give Visitation a two goal lead, effectively ending the game.

Ertl said, “Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of our team.  We made it farther than any team in school history by winning the first game in the tournament.  We broke our own record, set last year when we made the tournament but lost in the first round.  It’s amazing to be part of a team that got to be fourth place in the whole State of Minnesota.  Today was very much a bittersweet day knowing it was my last game.  After the game, we felt it pretty hard knowing it was the last game for all of the seniors.”



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