It's a Carlton County championship“I don’t think I took five steps before I was attacked,” said the 5-foot Karkkainen, recalling the dog pile on her following her game-winning strike in leading Esko-Carlton to a 2-1 overtime victory past Hermantown in a Section 7A semifinal at Corey Veech Field in Hermantown Tuesday.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
A sure-footed midfielder, Kadee Karkkainen does plenty of sprinting during a high school girls soccer game. Yet, it was the Esko junior who couldn’t dash fast enough in celebration following her latest goal.
“I don’t think I took five steps before I was attacked,” said the 5-foot Karkkainen, recalling the dog pile on her following her game-winning strike in leading Esko-Carlton to a 2-1 overtime victory past Hermantown in a Section 7A semifinal at Corey Veech Field in Hermantown Tuesday. “What more can you get? Having that go in; it was over-emotional.”
En route to netting the Eskomos’ most moving goal of the season, Karkkainen received teammate Elle Emanuel’s drive off the right post, took a touch and swiftly beat Hermantown goalkeeper Courtney Simmons in the upper right corner with 2:18 remaining in the opening overtime.
“What she lacks in size, she makes up with ball skills,” Esko-Carlton Coach Nicki Peterson said. “She is a real technical player who probably has the best one-on-one moves on our team. She’s always in position wherever the ball is and, like many of our players, can finish.”
Before Karkkainen finished, Emanuel struck in the 18th minute when the freshman forward booted in a rebound off a Simmons’ penalty kick stop in the first half. Applying pressure late, the Hawks responded in the 84th when leading-scorer Hailey Hoff sank a penalty kick past the Eskomos’ DeAhna Kulas. Moments later, Karkkainen relieved the tension.
“We play pretty well under high pressure,” said Karkkainen. “We have such a good team that anybody can step up for us. Whether on the bench or the field, anyone can play and we won’t miss a beat.”
No. 3 Esko-Carlton (13-6-0) now engages with fourth-seeded Cloquet (11-5-3) Thursday for the Section 7A girls soccer final at 6 p.m. at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. Both neighboring rivals split their regular season series this fall, as the Lumberjacks went to state in 2009, while the Eskomos will look to defend their title from 2011.
“We absolutely want to defend,” said Peterson. “Many of these girls went to state last year and want to get back. This year we’ve had a team effort and are in good position. But both teams will be fighting for it.”
“It’s going to be an intense, fun game to watch,” Karkkainen added about facing their cross-county foes for a third and final rubber match this year. “I think it could go either way, but right now, if we play like we have been playing for a while, I feel nothing is going to able to defeat us.”
Kenzie Rathe can relate, as the goalkeeper helped the Lumberjacks defeat Princeton 3-2 in a shootout win in the other Tuesday night Section 7A semifinal at Princeton. Rathe, a 5-foot-11 senior, showed no nervousness in holding out the top-seeded Tigers’ final three shot attempts en route to Cloquet’s comeback.
“Honestly, I love PKs,” said Rathe of penalty kicks. “We work on them every other day I’d say, so it’s nothing new. I’ve been trained by my dad, [and] my sister and my friends always challenge me. I just trusted myself.”
Rathe, who has eight shutouts this fall, also gave slight credit to her new pair of red gloves that match her red jersey. She said her father, Jim, brought them to her before Tuesday’s game. They came in handy late.
“They gave me a little extra stick,” Rathe said.
Cloquet stuck around with goals from Emily Wangen and Kayla Baker with less than 20 minutes left after trailing 2-0 early on. A scoreless pair of overtimes led to a sudden-death shootout where Kristi Konietzko, Gracie Sinisalo and Emily Rikkola all scored before Rathe slammed the door.
“She is a big, intimidating goalie,” said Cloquet Coach Dustin Randall. “It’s tough to score on us. And once she saved that first one in the shootout, you could tell all of the Princeton players were scared.”