Esko-Carlton soccer stymies Cloquet in 2-0 shutoutSarah Juntunen and Erika Olson aren’t bothered by the nightly ball marks they receive being soccer defenders. It just comes with their job.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
CLOQUET – Sarah Juntunen and Erika Olson aren’t bothered by the nightly ball marks they receive being soccer defenders. It just comes with their job.
The pair of Esko-Carlton center defenders is the team’s nucleus in the backfield, never hesitating at the threat of being battered, bruised or beat up when they step into the firing line of an opponent’s incoming shot.
“I’m sore after almost every game,” Juntunen said.
“I’ve got a nice ball mark from tonight,” added Olson with a laugh.
Esko’s brave duo continuously blocked and altered shots last Thursday, including a pair in the closing moments which helped preserve the Esko-
Carlton 2-0 shutout win over rival Cloquet at Bromberg Field.
Leading by just a goal at the time, Juntunen cleared a ball out of the backend near the net, while Olson took a dinger in the midsection halting Carley Esse’s equalizing attempt for the Lumberjacks in the final frame.
Afterward, Olson said getting in the way of things is nothing new.
“I’m always like, ‘If I don’t get to this ball, it could be a goal,’” said Olson, a junior. “It’s just an adrenaline rush where it’s ‘I need to get there,’ and if I don’t, I beat myself up over it.”
Olson has been getting pelted with balls since she can remember. Most recently, the second-year varsity defender shifted from the outside to the center when senior Katyanna Emanuel went down with a severe ankle sprain just over two weeks ago at Duluth East.
Although in a new position, Olson has taken guidance from Juntunen, a senior and four-year starter. The pair has centered Esko-Carlton (9-5-1) to shutouts in their final two regular season wins over Duluth Denfeld and Cloquet. Eskomo Coach Nicki Peterson said the pair of defenders don’t leave the field.
“Those two? Never,” she said. “I always trust them back there.”
Olson and Juntunen are aided on the outside by a pair of sophomore speedsters in Erika Shady and Kailee Katt, while junior Mackenzie Carlson also plays defense.
Senior goalkeeper Rachel Ofstie has posted half a dozen shutouts this fall.
“Rachel doesn’t allow much,” said Peterson. “And defensively, we’re right where we want to be.”
“They’re quick,” said Cloquet Coach Dustin Randall about the Eskomo defenders last week. “They’re faster than we’re used to. It gets frustrating.”
Juntunen said their swift ability to retreat to balls comes from practice: they usually play shorthanded against a handful of extra attackers rifling shots left and right.
“We do a lot of drills where the defense is down,” Juntunen said. “We work on containing things and keeping our shape. It’s amazing how you can get back when you need to. It’s kind of do-or-die.”
“We’re always numbers down,” added Olson. “I’m always tired.”
Against the Lumberjacks, Esko-Carlton’s Dallas Cossalter broke a scoreless tie when the junior netted a cross-field pass from junior Brooke Schramm less than three minutes into the second half. Cloquet (9-7) never went away, but allowed Esko standout Caitlin Lilly tally her 21st goal of the season when she poked the ball past Lumberjack keeper Breanna Tucker with just over eight minutes left.
With two wins to close their regular season, the Eskomos are looking as good as they have all fall, according to their coach.
“We’re playing well and going into the playoffs right where we want to be,” said Peterson. “The last two games have been our best all year.”
The Eskomos, seeded third, open up Section 7A play Thursday hosting Becker.
“We’re hoping to get back to the section finals and win,” added Juntunen about placing runners-up a year ago. “We’re all really fired up.”
So is Cloquet, sitting on the opposite side of the bracket.
“I don’t think anyone would choose to play us,” said Randall of his experienced Lumberjacks. Cloquet, seeded fifth, will host Duluth Marshall Thursday in the first round. “We’ll see how it goes. It should be
The Lumberjacks rebounded from last week’s loss to Esko, dumping Duluth Denfeld and Marshall to cap off their schedule. Against the Hilltoppers Tuesday, five different Lumberjacks scored in a 6-1 road win, and sophomore forward Maija Doran buried her team-leading 14th and 15th goals of the fall.
As for the loss to Esko-
Carlton, Randall took positives away for his girls.
“It’s a loss, but I thought we took a step forward tonight,” he said. “The first time we played them, we played 30 minutes. Tonight we played a full game. We had chances, they just didn’t go in. I thought we played pretty well; we just need more balls in their net and less in ours. It’s a simple game.”