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Baker, Lumberjacks edge by Eskomos

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As fast as Kayla Baker is on the ice or the track, perhaps it’s the soccer field where the Cloquet junior gets the most impressive results from her speed.

Baker’s pair of goals — helped by her quick first step — propelled Cloquet-Carlton past neighboring Esko 2-1 in a girls soccer comeback victory Tuesday at Bromberg Field.

Baker, a speedy 5-foot-4 striker, buried goals in both halves Tuesday.

Her first was an equalizer in the 23rd minute from senior captain Rachel Morrison to tie the game after Esko sophomore forward Ava Gonsorowski scored the second minute. Following a 1-1 halftime tie, Baker struck again in the 59th, this time on a pass from sophomore teammate Rachel Hammond, as the Lumberjacks (1-1) never again relinquished the advantage.

“That’s their offense,” admitted second-year Esko Coach Huff Emanuel of the swift Baker, who led her team in scoring a season ago with eight goals. “They dump the ball up to her and she runs like heck. She’s a finisher.”

“Kayla works her butt off,” said Morrison, a captain along with fellow senior Jordan Anderson. “She’s extremely fast and knows where she wants the ball and where to receive it.”

Also a hockey forward and track sprinter, Baker produces on the pitch as well of any. Tuesday, she had five shots on goal, two of which scored and a pair more that caromed off the crossbar. She also took three shots in a 5-3 defeat to Duluth Marshall last Friday, scoring two more times.

In a game where offense can be limited, Baker has a 4-of-8 shooting percentage so far this season, but she is quick to share her success.

“Everyone has their job — I get set up almost every time,” Baker said. “I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”

Those teammates are just as experienced, including classmate midfielder Emily Roy and defenders Morrison and junior Anna Fossen. Fellow junior goalkeeper Ali Chalberg is also solid, making eight stops Tuesday against their county rivals.

The Lumberjacks, 7-10-1 a year ago, have 21 players with just two seniors. There is no one from Carlton on the varsity squad this year, after Carlton made the switch to Cloquet from Esko for girls soccer last year.

Esko is as young as Cloquet, with only one senior, Bailey Mudek. A veteran junior class helps, including Emanuel’s daughter, Elle, as well as Lexi Smalley, Bailey Pantsar and Rachael Collier returning for a squad which was 7-9-2 last season.

The younger Emanuel assisted on Gonsorowski’s early score Tuesday, aiding eighth-grade goalie Macy Sunnarborg’s 10 saves, as the Eskomos (0-2) are winless, but no pushover.

“We’ll get up to speed; we’ll be OK,” Huff Emanuel said.

Much like Cloquet-Carlton, and their fast-to-score forward Baker.

“She’s gotten two goals a game for two games,” sixth-year Coach Dustin Randall said. “That’s a pretty good start.”