Postgame on the PitchPrep soccer summaries
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Carlton sophomore Tori Zime has scored just one goal so far this soccer season. Turns out the Esko-Carlton midfielder’s lone strike came at the right time. It was against their ultimate arch-rivals – Cloquet.
Zime’s 54th-minute netter off the bench secured a 1-0 shutout win for the Eskomos and they stymied the visiting Lumberjacks last Thursday in Esko.
“She came in with a lot of intensity and gave us what we needed at the right moment,” said Esko-Carlton coach Nicki Peterson of racing in Zime in the second half. “She stepped up.”
Zime understands her off-the-bench roll this season and remains total team player.
“She’s a very coachable kid,” continued Peterson. “She’s positive, upbeat and a hard worker. She’s been consistent for us.”
Junior forward Caitlin Lilly dished the ball to Zime, who buried it in the lower right corner of the net from 20 yards out.
Esko-Carlton outshot Cloquet 11-6 as junior goalkeeper Rachel Ofstie stopped all six of Cloquet’s attempts, while sophomore netminder Kenzie Rathe posted 10 saves for the ’Jacks.
The usually intense matchup didn’t live up to its hype, but the win proved to be a big one for the Eskomos, who have had a bumpy road lately.
“It was a pretty flat game on both ends,” said Peterson, “but the win came at good time. We’ve had some ups and downs and we needed a spark. And I think it served that purpose.”
Cloquet head coach Dustin Randall agreed.
“We both knew it really didn’t mean a lot,” he said. “The one that matters most is in the tourney.”
With the Section 7A brackets already set before last week’s clash, Esko-Carlton (9-6-1) claimed the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye and will open up play in the quarterfinals Saturday at 1 p.m. against the winner of Princeton and Hibbing-Chisholm.
On the other side of things, Cloquet (6-8-2) drew the No. 4 seed and will host No. 13 Becker at 5 p.m. Thursday at home. A win would propel the Lumberjacks to the quarterfinals against either Grand Rapids or Zimmerman, to be played in Cloquet.
As for the postseason schedule, it’s set up perfectly for each school. The semifinals are Tuesday at the high seed’s turf, while the championship is set for Public Schools Stadium in Duluth on Thursday.
“We’re on opposite sides of the bracket,” said Randall.
If both Esko-Carlton and Cloquet – which both ended their regular seasons’ with section wins – pull upsets throughout the tournament, we could all see what we all want – another rematch. And just like 2009, there would be a trip to state riding on the line.
The Lumberjacks tipped the Eskomos a year ago in the section final, winning 2-1 on a late score. Since then, Esko-Carlton hasn’t lost to their cross-county rivals. If they play again, it will be for the ultimate bragging rights – the section crown.
“They can feel it,” said Randall. “Once we get our feet under us here, I think we’ll be OK. We know what time of year it is.”
So do the Eskomos.
“We’ve taken a couple days off here and the girls are really inspired for the playoffs,” added Peterson.“A handful of these girls haven’t even been here before, but we just have to bring it all together. We’re excited for it.”
Esko will have home-field advantage until the championship round if they advance.
CEC boys enter postseason
The Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer team received the No. 5 seed in the Section 7A playoffs, but they’re not worried. They’re right where they want to be.
They’ll travel to No. 4 Hermantown Saturday afternoon.
Most squads wouldn’t want to open up their postseason run with a bus trip to Hermantown – last year’s Class A state runner-up – but having split with the Hawks this fall, CEC (7-8-1) is just fine with it.
A win would shoot CEC to the semifinals Tuesday, likely on the road.
“I think we’re ready,” said Lumberjacks coach Archie Clark.
A majority would have to agree.
Lately, CEC lost by only a late goal to top-seed Grand Rapids, fell to Lake Superior Conference champion Duluth Marshall twice by a goal each time, and dropped a two-goal decision to Class AA state-ranked Duluth East.
Sandwiched between the losses was a thrilling overtime victory against the talented No. 2 Proctor. The loss cost the Rails a shot at the conference title. So, now looking at their No. 5 ranking might be a tad misleading. Clark sure thinks so.
“Every year, I look for the boys to be playing their best soccer at the end of the year, and that’s all I can ask for. I’m so proud of them,” he said. “And that’s what we’re doing – playing our best
soccer, right now.”