Ofstie ‘saves’ Esko soccer teamWearing her fluorescent yellow jersey, thick-padded gloves and laced-up spikes, Rachel Ofstie looks every bit a girls soccer goalkeeper.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
HERMANTOWN – Wearing her fluorescent yellow jersey, thick-padded gloves and laced-up spikes, Rachel Ofstie looks every bit a girls soccer goalkeeper.
Even at 5-foot-2.
Despite her small size, the Esko-Carlton senior netminder made the biggest play of the night when she used her outstretched arms to knock aside Keely Lonetto’s fifth-round penalty kick and preserve her Eskomos in a
nail-biting 2-1 shootout victory over Hermantown in the Section 7A semifinals Tuesday night at Corey Veech Memorial Field in Hermantown.
“I just watched her hips and took my best guess,” said a stunned Ofstie, short of words, after her teammates mobbed her and cheered her name following her game-winning stuff. “I just try and keep them all out of the net.”
The win moved Esko-Carlton (12-5-1) to Thursday’s championship match at Chisago Lakes Area (12-2-4) at 7 p.m. It’ll be rematch of last year’s section final that the Eskomos fell short in.
Tuesday, after allowing a shootout-tying goal to the Hawks’ Mackenzie Herzig a round earlier to make it 1-1, Ofstie saw teammate Tori Zime give her Eskomos the advantage with her left-side strike, following junior Hillary Anderson’s initial mark.
Moments later, Ofstie dove towards her right, extended her arms and tipped Lonetto’s ball wide of the pipe just before her team stormed towards her.
“I was on the sideline just pacing,” said junior midfield teammate Brooke Schramm. “Then she saved it. And everyone started balling.
“There was a lot of crying,” continued Schramm. “It was just amazing.”
Esko-Carlton’s emotional win avenged an earlier season tie and a loss they suffered to the Hawks in mid-September when the two evenly-match clubs slugged it out.
“We’re both very similar, we’re both very athletic,” said Esko-Carlton Coach Nicki Peterson after the sub-40-degree thriller. “The momentum would swing one way, then you could tell it would swing the other way. We both had chances.”
Ofstie overcame an early miscue when a first-half Hawks shot was redirected off the leg of Esko-Carlton defender Kailee Katt and trickled past her during the 21st minute of the chilly contest.
But senior Caitlin Lilly’s team-leading 24th goal in the 56th minute off the foot of senior Sarah Juntunen tied things up for the Eskomos. As things were deadlocked,
Ofstie only continued to improve, sheering aside numerous Hermantown scoring chances, including one from point-blank range in overtime.
“I just knew I had to keep going and keep trying,” said Ofstie. “Goalies don’t get a lot of credit, but these are the games that make it worth it.”
On the night, Ofstie registered eight saves in regulation and overtime, before shoving over three more attempts in the shootout. This fall, she’s halted all but 18 of 125 shots fired at her, good for an 86 percent save percentage and a miniscule 1.09 goals against average per game.
“This has been her best season by far,” said Peterson of her second-year full-time varsity keeper who practices her penalty kick skills daily. “She’s playing above what she’s ever played. She has so much patience on the line.”
“I play with her in the summer and even the really good Cities teams would be like ‘Oh my gosh, your goalie is amazing,’” she said. “It’s nice knowing that you have a very skilled goaltender that can save pretty much anything.
“I wouldn’t want anyone else in net,” Schramm continued. “She’s amazing.”
Mixed with their late-goal scoring ability and Ofstie’s heroics, the Eskomos now have a date with the Wildcats in the section finals for a second straight year. Esko-Carlton, winners of five straight, haven’t lost since Chisago Lakes topped them on Sept. 29 in a 4-1 game that Peterson said didn’t show much.
“That was the windiest game of all-time,” she said. “I don’t think either team knows much about each other, but I know emotionally our girls are ready.”
The Eskomos are in their third consecutive championship, having lost to the Wildcats last year and to Cloquet in 2009.
Thursday, all they want is a win.
Anyway the can get it.
“All of us want it bad enough now,” said Schramm. “This is the year.”
“We just have to do our best, really,” added Ofstie. “We’re aiming for state.”