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home : sports : sports
November 30, 2021

10/21/2021 2:26:00 PM
North Branch's spirited run ends in section championship

The Viking girls’ soccer team made it to the Section 7AA championship game after beating Grand Rapids in the semifinals but lost the championship game 3-0 to the Cloquet-Carlton Lumberjacks.  The Vikings were led by a solid senior class but could continue to be competitive in future seasons as quite a few of their starters and stars are sophomores and eighth graders this season, including leading scorer Ava Gerten.

North Branch 1, Grand Rapids 0
Sophomore Ava Gerten, the Vikings’ leading scorer, scored the only goal of the game midway through the first half and the third-seeded Vikings hung on for a 1-0 win over the second-seeded Grand Rapids Thunderhawks Thursday, October 14 at Grand Rapids High School.

Grand Rapids came out fast and aggressive and had five or six shots in the first 20 minutes of the game.  At almost exactly the halfway point of the first half, sophomore Ava Mohs sent a pass to Gerten at the top of the Thunderhawk box.  Gerten sent a shot up and over the Grand Rapids keeper into the back of the net to give the Vikings a 1-0 lead on the Vikings’ first shot of the game.  Viking head coach Josh Kopp said, “We settled down after that and got more control.  We owned the second half, but they did get some opportunities to score.”

One of those opportunities came with ten minutes left in the game.  Grand Rapids sent in a through ball and the Viking eighth grade keeper Sharis Garcia Velazquez sprinted out to the corner at the top of the box to try to beat a Grand Rapids player to the ball.  The Grand Rapids player got there first and chipped the ball over Garcia Velazquez for what looked like the tying goal.  But sophomore defender Summer Fruth sprinted into the box from the weak side and, just as the ball was about to cross the goal line, volleyed it out of harm’s way to preserve the Viking lead.  From that point forward, there were no more scary moments as the Vikings controlled play in the Thunderhawk end to seal the victory and send the Vikings to the section championship game.

Cloquet-Carlton 3, North Branch 0
The Vikings battled the top-seeded and ninth-ranked Cloquet-Carlton Lumberjacks pretty evenly in the section championship game, even controlling play for a good portion of the second half.  But the difference in the game came down to shots on net.  The Lumberjacks generated some quality shots from their scoring opportunities, scoring one goal in the first half and adding two more in the second half.  The Vikings, meanwhile, got the ball deep into Cloquet territory many times, especially in the second half, but never got off a shot that seriously challenged the Lumberjack keeper, and lost 3-0.  The game was played in beautiful fall weather Tuesday, October 19 at Public Schools Stadium at Duluth Denfeld High School.

Ten minutes into the first half, Cloquet had a throw-in from the far side deep in Vikings’ territory.  The Cloquet player threw the ball into the top of the Viking box.  Lumberjack players headed it back and forth three times before one of them headed the ball into the net to make the score 1-0.  In the 34th minute, a through ball came to a Cloquet player in stride about 30 yards out from the Viking net.  She split two Vikings defenders and rocketed a shot toward the inside of the right post.  Viking keeper Sharis Garcia Velazquez dove to her left and caught the ball a few inches off the ground for a phenomenal save that kept the game at 1-0.  The Vikings did get the ball to the front of the Lumberjack net with two minutes left in the half but didn’t generate a shot.

The Vikings had a scare on the second half kickoff.  The ball was sent back to the Viking defense to set up the play.  A Viking defender misplayed the ball and a Cloquet player actually got off a quick shot that Garcia Velazquez had to save.  About ten minutes into the second half, senior Lilly Johnson freed herself up in the Lumberjack box through a great individual effort and got off a shot, but it went right at the keeper and bounced away harmlessly.

In the 59th minute, Cloquet sent a crossing pass into the Viking box from the right side.  The Vikings knocked the ball to the top left corner of the box.  A wide open Cloquet player trapped it and ripped a shot over the head of a leaping Garcia Velazquez and under the crossbar in the upper right corner to make the score 2-0.
Senior Emmie Meyer was the Vikings’ best offensive weapon, especially in the second half.  She took most of the throw-ins that were deep in Cloquet territory and used her abilities the throw the ball into the Cloquet box.  But the Vikings were unable to convert on any of those opportunities.

In the 75th minute, the Vikings were called for a foul about 25 yards out from their net near the right sideline.  The referee set the ball down and, as the Vikings were setting up on defense a Cloquet player just ran onto the ball and one-timed it over the not-ready defense and into the net to make the final score 3-0.

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