October 21, 2016 at 10:10 a.m.
The game was scoreless until late in the second half. Possession time was even, but Princeton had 15 to 20 solid scoring chances throughout the game and the Vikings had three or four. The Vikings only had two shots on goal in the game – and they both resulted in goals.
With four minutes to go in regulation, Khyah Harper dribbled the ball just inside the top of the Tiger 18 yard box and took a hard shot toward the middle of the net. The ball hit the Tiger goal keeper and bounced out a couple of yards. Sophomore Mercedey Harper emerged from the crowd of players in the box and shot the rebound toward the right post. The ball hit the inside of the post and bounded into the net to put the Vikings up 1-0. But just two minutes later, the Tigers broke out of the Viking zone in a two on one counterattack. The ball was passed from the left to a Princeton forward on the right who went in on a breakaway. Anderson had no chance as the Tiger player ripped the ball by her to tie the game at 1-1.
Three minutes into the first overtime, Khyah Harper got the ball on the left side just inside the Princeton half of the field. Harper sped downfield with the ball, moving to the right to avoid a Tiger defender. At about 15 yards out and few feet to the right of the right post, Harper ripped a shot toward the left post. The ball eluded the diving Tiger goalkeeper, hit the inside of the left post and rolled into the back of the net, sending the Vikings to the state tournament. The entire Viking team ran to midfield to celebrate, joined a minute or so later by 100 jubilant North Branch students.
The Viking goalkeeper, junior Claudia Anderson, did her part to keep the game close. She acted as an extra defender time and again during the game. Eight to ten times, Anderson came way out of the box to knock away through balls that were being chased down by Tiger forwards who had gotten behind the Viking defense and were looking for a breakaway. She came with several big saves, as well.
Khyah Harper was knocked down three times in the Princeton penalty area in the first 15 minutes of the game, but the referee refused to call a foul and award the Vikings a penalty kick. This signaled it was going to be a rough game. But the referee called it evenly and the style of play didn’t seem to faze the Vikings.
A few minutes after the game, junior co-captain Keely Ertl said “I am so excited. I believed in this team from the start I knew we could pull it out tonight. Early in the season, I knew the potential of this team and it just kept building and building and as soon as we beat Cloquet [in the section quarterfinals] I knew that we were going to do it.” Ertl was asked how she felt when Princeton tied the game after the Vikings had taken the lead just a couple of minutes earlier. She said “I knew and the girls knew we had to come back stronger than they did. We had to fight for it. I am excited to be where we are right now and I am living in the moment, for sure. We are going to the state tournament thinking that we have the confidence to beat anyone.”
Mankato West 7, North Branch 1
On a cold, drizzly night, the Mankato West Scarlets (18-2-0) scored three goals in the first ten minutes and went on to beat the Vikings 7-1 in the opening round of the Class A girls’ soccer state tournament. Eighth-grader Khyah Harper scored the lone goal for the Vikings. Shelby Lund scored a hat trick for the Scarlets. It was the 18th consecutive win for Mankato West. The game was played at Farmington High School on Tuesday, October 25. Soccer does not have a consolation bracket at the state tournament, so the loss ended the season for the Vikings (12-8-1), who were playing at state for the first time in the history of their program.
In the seventh minute, the Scarlets scored on a one-timer off of a corner kick to go up 1-0. They scored on a rebound in the ninth minute. And a minute later, a Mankato West forward trapped a pass, spun to her left just beyond the top left edge of the Viking penalty area and ripped a right-footed one-hopper just inside the left post, giving the Scarlets a 3-0 lead. They scored two more times before the half, once on a high bouncer that was headed in from point blank range and the other time when a ball was misplayed deep in the Viking box right onto the foot of a Scarlet player who rolled it into the net.
With the Vikings trailing 6-0 late in the second half, Khyah Harper took a pass in stride in the center of the Mankato West zone, used her speed to split the defense and rifled a shot from about 15 yards out to the right of the Scarlet goalkeeper and into the back of the net. The Scarlets added another goal a couple of minutes later to make the final score 7-1.
Despite the lopsided score, Mankato West only had about a 60% to 40% edge in time of possession and the Vikings were able to move the ball deep into Scarlet territory fairly regularly. The difference came in scoring opportunities. Mankato West had over a dozen good scoring chances and the Vikings’ only real scoring chance came on the play on which Harper scored the lone Viking goal.
Mankato West was ranked eleventh in Class A in the most recent Coaches Association poll, but came in second in the final QRF rankings. They definitely played at a higher level than the Vikings’ section championship game opponent, the Princeton Tigers, who were ranked sixth in the final coaches’ poll and third in QRF.
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