Esko and Cloquet soccer staying competitive on the pitch

CLOQUET, Minn. - It seems almost every fall, both Esko and Cloquet have very competitive high school girls soccer programs. This summer is no different - they're just as good.

CLOQUET, Minn. - It seems almost every fall, both Esko and Cloquet have very competitive high school girls soccer programs. This summer is no different - they're just as good.

Last Thursday at Hilltop Park in Cloquet, the Eskomos and the Lumberjacks clashed in a U18 Arrowhead Youth Soccer Association matchup in which both talented clubs ended regulation in a 2-2 tie.

Though neither squad pulled out a victory, both coaches were pleased with their girls' efforts.

"The girls played really well," said Esko head coach Katie Juntunen, who has been calling the shots for the Eskomos for three years now. "The girls have come a long way with their passing and communication skills and really have held their opponents scoring chances down this summer."

"I was really impressed by the way the girls played," said Cloquet head coach Greg Bernu, who has been directing the Lumberjacks for four years. "It was the best game we played all year. It was just a good, clean game and a lot of fun."


Esko, who also has a number of stars from Carlton on their team, finished the regular season with an overall record of 4-3-1 and credits their victories to team work.

"We've had just a few lapses here and there," said Juntunen. "But all of the girls have been great this summer and are all very encouraging to each other."

With their encouragement and teamwork leading the way, the Eskomos are guided by a number of girls including goalkeeper Nicole Lund, defensemen Hope Anderson and Sarah Juntunen and forwards Sara Skyberg and Sydnee VanDell. Juntunen's club is also assisted by a pair of all-stars from Carlton in defenseman Jill Tomczak and midfielder Sammy Toivonen.

But even with a number of impressive players, Esko isn't a group of individuals - they're a team.

"We haven't had one single standout player all summer long," said Juntunen about the Eskomos, who had four different scorers against Proctor this past Sunday. "All of the girls just really support each other and contribute the team."

The same goes for Cloquet.

"I can't really pick out a star player," said Bernu about his Lumberjacks who finished the regular season 0-7-2, but have hung tough with solid teams all summer long. "It's never just one kid, they are all so tough day in and day out."

Cloquet also has girls from AlBrook on their team and though they don't have any wins on the year, Bernu explained how his young squad is getting better every game playing at this high level of soccer.


"The league was tough, but the girls really started functioning well at the end of the season," he said. "The girls really have adapted well this summer and have gelled as a team."

Though both clubs have gone through some ups and downs this summer, both Juntunen and Bernu know their girls have had a lot of fun.

"It's been very fun to watch this team grow and develop throughout the summer," said Juntunen. "The girls have worked very hard and have really come a long way."

"The girls have had a lot of fun and should hold their heads high for their efforts this summer," said Bernu.

And with the playoffs just around the corner this weekend in Duluth, both coaches are looking ahead.

"We're really looking forward to the playoffs," said Juntunen about her Eskomos. "We've been in the middle all season long, but if we focus on playing tough defense and attacking the net, I really think this team has what it takes to make it to the Final Four."

"The playoffs are going to be quite difficult this weekend," said Bernu about the Lumberjacks, who are set to tango with one of the top teams in the league in Duluth Denfeld. "But we have a chance. We've scored on them before and I'm hoping for big upsets this weekend."

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