Esko-Carlton girls soccer edges Cloquet 2-1Burying a 30-yard goal on the left side of the net just under the crossbar, one would think that Esko’s Kadee Karkkainen meticulously aimed her game-winning kick against Cloquet Tuesday. She’d tell you otherwise.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ESKO – Burying a 30-yard goal on the left side of the net just under the crossbar, one would think that Esko’s Kadee Karkkainen meticulously aimed her game-winning kick against Cloquet Tuesday.
She’d tell you otherwise.
“I just shot it,” said the sophomore forward for the Esko-Carlton girls soccer team, wearing a huge smile after the game. “It was my first varsity goal ever.”
Karkkainen’s clutch strike came with less than nine minutes left, as the Eskomos topped the neighboring Lumberjacks with a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Les Knuti Memorial Field in Esko.
The 5-foot speedster received a pass from junior Erika Olson after a throw-in and soon after split the Cloquet defense to bury the ball in the back corner.
“Erika gave me a great pass down the sidelines and I saw an opening,” Karkkainen said. “I shot it. Then I was just thinking ‘Oh my God.’ It couldn’t have been a better game.”
Esko-Carlton usually banks most of their goals off of lead-scorer and senior forward Caitlin Lilly. Yet, Esko Coach Nicki Peterson said Karkkainen’s heroics were a nice change of pace for her girls.
“We usually attack with one person,” Peterson said, “but it was good to see someone younger stepping up and taking that shot.”
Just over six minutes before Karkkainen’s game-clincher, Lilly netted the equalizer on a corner kick from junior Dallas Cossalter, as the Eskomos (2-0) wore down Cloquet’s (0-2) lead in the second half, evaporating a near 40-minute, one-goal deficit.
“I felt like we started gelling more on offense, and we played better defense in the second half,” said Peterson, whose Eskomos outshot Cloquet 10-4 for the match. “We gave ourselves some more options.”
Sporting a handful of distance runners on its roster, Esko-Carlton used their speed to their advantage, as they controlled play following halftime. Trailing 1-0 at the break, the Eskomos applied constant pressure on what seemed like an exhausted Cloquet team.
“We condition every single day,” Karkkainen said about her team’s ability to outrun the Lumberjacks late. “We just know we have to keep going.”
Cloquet Coach Dustin Randall agreed that his squad was simply worn down by the Eskomos during the late stages of the contest.
“We’re not quite at the fitness level we need to be at and you can tell,” Randall said. “In the second half we slowed down and everything just kind of collapsed on us. But we’ll get there.”
While they had their fresh legs, the Lumberjacks scored first on a right-side cross from junior Emily Rikkola that was received by senior Kelsey Anderson in front of the net, and dished over to sophomore forward Maija Doran for a goal. They scored within the opening seven
They just couldn’t hold on.
In net, Cloquet senior goalkeeper Breanna Tucker saved eight shots, while Esko-Carlton senior Rachel Ofstie stopped three of her own.
“For the bulk of the game, I thought that we were the better team,” Randall said, noting a majority of their starters are back this fall from a team that finished 8-9-2 on the pitch. “We just have to clean up some of our mistakes.”
Although the loss stings, Cloquet – which lost two one-goal games to the Eskomos last year – doesn’t plan to dwell on the loss.
“We give ourselves 15 hours, that’s our time frame to be happy or sad, then we have to move on,” said Randall, whose Lumberjacks also lost 4-0 to Rosemount in their opener last week. “We’re looking at the big picture. I think that by the end of the year nobody will want to play us. We’ll be fine. I like our squad.”
As does Peterson.
With all of their returnees, the Eskomos are the likely favorites in the section. They defeated Proctor 1-0 last week where Hillary Anderson scored the lone goal, and with the win over Cloquet, the Eskomos are 2-0 on the season. Still, Peterson sees areas to perfect.
“We’re finding ways to win,” she said, “but we’re not making good runs off the ball. We need to move better with the play. We came out flat today.”
But Karkkainen took care of that. Even if it was against her good friends.
“I play hockey, too, so we’re all pretty good friends,” Karkkainen said of the Cloquet girls. “I know a lot of them and they have a great team. We’ll definitely be seeing them again. You just have to have fun with it.”
The two teams will meet again Oct. 6 under the lights in Cloquet.
Meanwhile, the Eskomos travel to Andover Thursday and host Hibbing-Chisholm Tuesday, while Cloquet welcomes Academy of Holy Angels Saturday