Marshall stuns Lumberjacks in soccer semifinals
BOYS SOCCER PLAYOFFS
Cloquet-Esko-Carlton boys soccer coach Archie Clark thought there would be upsets in the Section 7A tournament. He just never thought one would involve his team.
The top-seeded Lumberjacks fell to Duluth Marshall in a penalty shootout at Bromberg Field Tuesday night — a stunning upset that ends the team's season at 15-2-1.
"I think a penalty shootout is the hardest way to lose in sports," Clark said. "There's just nothing you can say when your whole season comes down to one kick of a ball."
The Lumberjacks dominated the fourth-seeded Hilltoppers throughout the match but were unable to find a way to score.
"We missed more chances than I could count," Clark said. "We had one play where a shot went through the goalkeeper's legs and a defender slid to clear it off the goal line before it went in.
"There's no doubt in my mind that had we scored, we could have held them off," Clark added.
Instead, after overtime, the match went to penalty kicks. Soccer aficionados say the 12 yards from the penalty spot to the goal are the hardest distance to cover in sports, and that showed through in the shootout.
Penalty shootouts customarily go for five rounds or until a winner is decided. CEC's match took nine rounds before K.C. Snyder finally ended it for Marshall in the last round.
And now, the Lumberjacks figure out what went wrong.
"That's such a hard thing to determine," Clark said. "Marshall had some pretty grizzly guys in their back line and they made it tough for us, but I think they only had three attempts at goal in the whole match."
And on a team that featured only one sophomore and close to a dozen seniors, Clark had a fairly veteran crew.
"We've made a semifinal or a final for something like seven years in a row now, so we must be doing something right," Clark said. "But it's hard to look the players in the eyes after having a season end like this.
"To have a game end, a season end, or for some of the seniors have their whole career end on one kick of a ball is devastating," he continued. "We congratulate Marshall but now we just need to soak it all in. We had a great season — this was probably the best team I've ever had here — but it didn't work out."
Clark will miss the camaraderie of the group, especially the seniors.
"They were always ready, they are always close and they'll get through this like they get through everything else, as a true team," he said. "These are kids who won't just succeed on the field, they'll succeed in life. It will be interesting to see where these players are five years from now and what paths they will set for themselves."
Sadly, one of those paths won't be a section final, but in every other measure, Clark said this was a special group of players."
"There isn't a thing you can say to them," he said. "That's what makes it hard."