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In David versus Goliath battle, Esko comes out on top

Esko's Karlie Kulas gets a point-blank scoring chance stopped by Duluth East goaltender Anna “Stanley” Mayer during Monday night's soccer match. Dave Harwig/ 1 / 4
Esko soccer players mob goalkeeper Macy Sunnarborg after the Eskomos 1-0 victory over Duluth East on Monday night. 2 / 4
Dave Harwig/ 3 / 4
Dave Harwig/ 4 / 4

The Esko girls soccer team has not taken the easy road this season. Following a 2-0 loss on Saturday to the state’s No. 1 ranked Class A team, Benilde-St. Margaret’s, the Eskomos followed up with an impressive 1-0 win over local Class AA powerhouse Duluth East on Monday night.

“The win against East was a team win for sure,” explained co-head coach Alissa Anderson. “Monday night and on Saturday against Benilde-St. Margaret’s our girls did an excellent job of doing the little things that make a big difference. They fought to win 50-50 balls, played tight man-to-man defense, and did an excellent job of communicating with each other in positive and encouraging ways.”

The lone goal of the game against East was scored on a wild scramble in front of Greyhound netminder Anna Mayer off a corner kick by Karlie Kulas. Kulas drove the ball to the front of the net and after it skipped through the goalmouth area, Paige Hill drove a shot on Meyer. Meyer saved it but the rebound bounced to Tori Vosburg, who hammered it home for the game-winning score in the 54th minute.

While the Eskomos provided the only goal of the game, it was a solid team defensive effort that kept East off the boards, as well as plenty of great goaltending from Macy Sunnarborg, who finished with 10 saves.

“Macy played her best two games of the season on Saturday and during Monday night's game against Duluth East,” said Anderson of her goaltender.  “She came up big over and over again last night making diving saves, snatching balls out of the air amidst chaos, and providing great leadership in the back field through constant communication with her defenders and other teammates.“

The solid play over the last two games has been an important turning point for the Eskomos, who suffered a tough loss to Duluth Marshall last Thursday.

“We had a tough overtime loss against Duluth Marshall and the morale of the team was at a season low,” recalled Anderson, a co-coach along with Nicki Peterson. “On Friday, after the Marshall game, the focus of our practice was on reminding the girls that soccer is a game and we are all out here to have fun. We also spent some time talking about effective ways to communicate with each other on and off the field. Our ladies are quick learners and Coach Peterson and I felt a shift not only in the attitudes of the girls on the team, but in us as coaches as well.”

That shift resulted in a well-played game against Benilde-St. Margaret’s and a victory over Duluth East which improved the Esko record to 6-5-1 on the season.

Another key to the Esko success this season is the fact the Eskomo line-up includes 10 seniors who have been able to provide strong leadership support for the rest of the team.

“Our senior group has created a culture on our team of hard work, positive attitudes and fun,” Anderson commented. “I was just as proud of the seniors on our team who provided encouragement and support predominantly from the bench as I was of the seniors who spent the majority of the game on the field last night.”

The Eskomos are hoping that the back-to-back solid games will provide a push over the next week as they wrap up the season with four straight games starting Thursday night with a home game against Hermantown starting at 8 p.m. Esko will host three of those four games, ending with their final game of the season next Thursday when they play rival Cloquet in Esko.