Esko-Carlton ends a step short of state in 3-1 loss to Chisago Lakes AreaChisago Lakes Area 2 – 1 — 3 Esko-Carlton 0 – 1 — 1
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
DULUTH — Ever since coming up a step away from the state tournament last year, the Esko-Carlton girls soccer team has wanted the chance to make up for it.
Thursday night they got that chance, but again fell just short.
Halted early by a pair of Chisago Lakes Area goals in the first 15 minutes, the Eskomos never once had the lead, falling 3-1 in the Section 7A championship game Thursday at Duluth’s Public Schools Stadium.
“Getting scored two goals on you in the first 15 minutes isn’t exactly how you expect to go into a section final,” said head coach Nicki Peterson afterwards. “We struggled a little bit tonight.”
“We played hard,” said Carlton senior midfielder Savannah Schramm while holding the section runner-up trophy. “I just think we kind of let the pressure get to us a little bit.”
And Chisago Lakes immediately took advantage.
The top-seeded Wildcats (15-5-1) got off to a blazing start when senior forward Rachel Diers banked in a crossing pass off her midsection from fellow senior forward Cassandra Trandahl in the 8th minute.
Seven minutes later, the duo hooked up again when Trandahl scooted past the Eskomos’ defense and scored off a dish from Diers. The goal was Trandahl’s team-best 20th of the season, and put the Wildcats up 2-0. The lightning-quick Trandahl faced 1-on-3 defenses throughout the night, yet still managed slip by time and time again.
“She has a lot of speed on her and can get through pretty much anybody,” said Schramm of Trandahl. “We knew we had to mark No. 8. She’s got a lot of talent.”
Both Esko-Carlton and Chisago Lakes met each other in the regular season, when the Wildcats won 3-1 in double overtime. Coming into Thursday night’s title tilt, they knew what to expect.
“We knew they were a tough team,” continued Schramm. “We could beat them, but they got the better of us this time.”
The Eskomos offense just never got clicking Thursday.
“We slowed them down in the midfield, but we just couldn’t get that offensive attack established on our end,” said Peterson.
Esko-Carlton’s best offensive chance of the first half came off a free kick from sophomore midfielder Hillary Anderson that hit the crossbar and missed with just over four minutes left.
Following halftime, the Eskomos were sparked when Schramm scored a 48th-minute goal off a deflection from junior forward Caitlin Lilly, coming from Anderson’s corner kick.
Just like that, the Eskomos were right back in it.
As the chilly night continued, second-seeded Esko-Carlton (11-7-1) continued to hang tough, but their chances dwindled when Diers netted her second goal of the contest on a trickling shot that rolled under Eskomos’ junior goalkeeper Rachel Ofstie in the 66th.
When the final horn sounded, the Eskomos’ season was done.
“It’s a disappointment,” Peterson said. “Just a tough loss to stomach tonight.”
All in all, Chisago Lakes fired 19 blistering shots towards Ofstie, as their quick-footed, in-your-face offense took advantage of opportunities, while their defense held the Eskomos’ leading scorer Lilly, scoreless.
“They’re a great team,” said Peterson of Chisago Lakes, a squad that is riding a four-game win streak. “Offensively they played very well and defensively they held us out of their third. And they have a good keeper.”
The section championship was the first in school history.
“It’s just an all-around good team,” continued Peterson of the Wildcats, who will now wait until this weekend to discover which foe they’ll play in next week’s Class A state tournament. “Hopefully they’ll go far in state.”
Esko-Carlton was seeking their second-ever state tournament appearance and first since 2005. Now they’ll just have to wait another year.
However, Schramm said it best after the game.
“We put our hearts into it tonight,” the captain said. “We did lose but we had a good season. It’s hard, but we’ll keep our heads high and keep moving on.”
“I’m very happy with where this team has ended,” added Peterson. “We made a lot of progress and they have great attitudes. I think they realize they had a good season and had a lot of fun together.”
The young Eskomos will return most of their nucleus to the pitch again next fall. With this year’s experience, Peterson is confident her bunch will be back in the thick of things. Only next year, maybe they’ll make that next step.
“The picture is good,” she said. “We hope to have a good couple years in the future.”