October 25, 2018 at 2:11 p.m.
With the second-seeded Wildcat girls soccer team trailing 1-0 to the Duluth Marshall Hilltoppers late in last Thursday night’s Section 7A championship matchup, it was still anybody’s game. But the Hilltoppers scored on a penalty kick in the 32nd minute and added another goal three minutes later to take a 3-0 lead into halftime. They scored once more in the second half and shut out the Wildcats 4-0. The game was played at Duluth East High School. The win for the Hilltoppers sent them to the state tournament. The loss for the Wildcats ended their season just short of their second state tournament appearance.
The Wildcats struggled to generate offense against Marshall. The Wildcat defense played well, for the most part, but the foul in the box that led to the penalty kick was the key turning point in the game. A 2-0 deficit against a good team tends to be tough to overcome. Wildcat head coach Wayne Kugel said “Our team got a little rattled after the penalty kick. We continued to play hard but were unsuccessful possessing the ball long enough to organize effective counterattacks. It was a great venue with great fans watching with two great teams playing Section 7A championship soccer. Hats off to Nic Bacigalupo and the Hilltoppers.”
Kugel added “Soccer is one of coolest sports ever. It provides an incredible array of opportunities and challenges. And it allows coaches to teach all kinds of skills that will last a lifetime. But each time that game whistle blows, it time for the players to take over and demonstrate their mastery of technical, tactical, physical and mental skills to the best of their abilities. For the best chance to succeed in a championship match the entire team must execute on all four of those elements at a high level. We felt like the girls came into the match technically sound, mentally ready and physically prepared. As the stress of the goal deficit dragged on, we started to make more tactical mistakes that the Hilltoppers capitalized on. We will tuck experiences from this match into our memory banks just like last year’s 13 penalty-kick shootout loss against Cloquet in the semifinal round. We have absolutely no regrets. Saying goodbye to an amazing group of senior leaders is the hardest part. Looking to the future, we are improving all the time and we have an outstanding group of girls in our program that are already hungry to go even further next year.”