October 19, 2018 at 8:08 a.m.
Sophomore Avery Constant and freshman Madison Kubalek scored two goal each as the second-seeded Wildcats derailed the fifteenth-seeded Proctor Rails 6-0 in the opening round of the Section 7A playoffs last Thursday, October 11 at Chisago Lakes. The win allowed the Wildcats to advance to the next round of the playoffs, at home to the Esko Eskomos last Saturday.
After shaking off the initial playoff nerves, this one was all Wildcats. Halfway through the first half, sophomore Amber Peterson sent a ball into the box and freshman Madison Kubalek was there to finish the connection to put the Wildcats up 1-0. About 15 minutes later, Selina Lee sent a beautiful ball up to Estefani Hanson, who dribbled a few yards and placed the ball into the back of the net for the goal of the game. Shortly after that, the Wildcats earned a free kick in their attacking third. Junior defender Kellie Higgins placed the kick at the feet of sophomore attacker Mya Hoheisel, who took a shot. The Proctor keeper made the initial save, but sophomore Megan Cartier was in the right place to hammer it home to put the Wildcats up 3-0 heading into the half. Despite having a 3-goal lead, the energy and intensity never let up for the Wildcats. Sophomore attacker Avery Constant rattled off two goals early in the second half, both assisted by junior midfielder Allison Glenna. With ten seconds left in the game, junior midfielder Estefani Hanson sent a through ball up to the speedy Kubalek, who dribbled in for her second goal of the game.
Chisago Lakes 2, Esko 0
Corner kicks by junior Kellie Higgins resulted in a goal of her won and an assist on senior Sarah Bjelland’s goal, and it was all the scoring the Wildcats needed as they shut out the seventh-seeded Esko Eskomos 2-0 last Saturday, October 13 at Chisago Lakes. The win advanced the Wildcats to the section semifinal game this past Tuesday against the third-seeded Hermantown Hawks.
The Wildcats knew they were in for a tough battle in this one. In their lone meeting in the regular season, it took a penalty kick in overtime for the Wildcats to beat the extremely physical Eskomos. The Wildcats were the aggressor in this match and retained possession in their attacking third for most of the first half. But they weren't able to get on the scoreboard until the 33rd minute, when Higgins sent a corner kick in that bounced off the hands of the Esko goalkeeper and into the back of the net. Heading into halftime with a one goal lead, the Wildcats knew they had their work cut out for them in the second half. But they rose to the challenge and played arguably their best soccer all year to close out the game. 12 minutes into the 2nd half, another corner kick opportunity by Higgins found the head of senior Sarah Bjelland, who buried the ball into the back of the net with authority to give the Wildcats a little insurance for the remainder of the match.
Chisago Lakes 2, Hermantown 1 (Penalty Kicks)
With the Wildcats up 3-2 in penalty kicks, fourth shooter Claire Meyer sent her shot past the keeper and into the back of the net to give the Wildcats the win in their Section 7A semifinal game against the third-seeded Hermantown Hawks. The game was played in front of the home crowd at Chisago Lakes High School this past Tuesday, October 16. The win sends the Wildcats to tonight’s section championship game against the fourth-seeded Marshall School Hilltoppers at Duluth East High School at 6 p.m. The Hilltoppers upset top-seeded Cloquet 2-0 to advance to the championship game.
The Wildcats dominated the first half with a dazzling display of passing. But they generated little offense. Their only shot of the first half came in the 15th minute. Kellie Higgins took a corner kick from the left corner. A Wildcat player standing just inside the left side of the box slid it over to Allison Glenna in the middle. Glenna calmly slid the ball past the Hawk keeper and into the back of the net to put the Wildcats up 1-0.
Hermantown ramped it up after halftime and the Wildcats looked a bit sluggish. In the 54th minute, a corner kick from the right corner bounced off a Hawk player at the near post and squirted just inside the post to tie the game at 1-1. Hermantown dominated the rest of the half. They made Wildcat goalkeeper Dylan Grave work pretty hard. She had to make quite a few saves, but she didn’t have to make any great saves. A lot of the shots were from 25 or more yards out and some of them missed the net. The Wildcats were able to hold off the Hawks and get the game to overtime.
In the playoffs, the two overtimes are ten minutes each, versus five minutes each in the regular season. The Wildcats came to life in the overtime periods and the play was more even. The Wildcats had one good scoring opportunity on a through ball late in the second overtime, but the shot went wide.
Also, unlike the regular season, ties in the playoffs must be broken. So, a five-player shootout is held to determine the winner. The Hawks went first. The first shooter banged the ball off the right post. Selina Lee, who took and converted all six penalty kicks for the Wildcats this season, stepped up and banged the ball into the right side of the net to put the Wildcats up 1-0 in the shootout. The next shooter for the Hawks slammed the ball off the crossbar. Allison Glenna took the next shot for the Wildcats and kicked the ball low and to the left side of the net, past the keeper for a 2-0 Wildcat lead. The next Hermantown shooter converted her shot to cut the Wildcat lead to 2-1. Kellie Higgins was next up to the penalty spot She put a nice clean shot low and to the left past the mostly stationary keeper as well and the Wildcats were up 3-1. After the next Hermantown shooter made her shot, the Wildcats just needed one of their final two shooters to convert to win the shootout and the game and send the Wildcats to Duluth for tonight’s section championship game. Meyer calmly stepped up to the ball and shot it low and to the right, past the keeper and into the back of the net for the win. Students poured out of the stands to celebrate with the players.
The Wildcats lost in a 13-player shootout in last season’s section semifinals. So, did they practice shootouts a lot this year? “You bet,” said Wildcat head coach Wayne Kugel. “We worked on them every day at the end of practice.” And one thing in the shootout was in the Wildcats’ favor. The Hawk keeper didn’t move on any of the shots. She looked like she had never been in a shootout or even practiced one.
The Wildcats lost 4-0 to Duluth Marshall in the section finals on Thursday, October 18. For a full recap check out next week's Chisago County Press.