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Prep girls soccer: Cloquet-Carlton tops North Branch 3-0 for third straight section crown

Anchored by a core of players who are no strangers to big games, the Lumberjacks used their distinct advantage in experience to earn a trip back to state.

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Alexa Snesrud (12) of Cloquet-Carlton scores a goal against Sharis Garcia Velazquez (1) of North Branch during the Section 7AA final on Tuesday, Oct. 19, 2021, at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. Clint Austin / Duluth News Tribune
CLINT AUSTIN

Top-seeded Cloquet-Carlton showed why there is simply no substitute for experience when it comes to playing on the big stage during Tuesday’s Section 7AA championship game against No. 3 seed North Branch.

With nine players back from the team’s consecutive section title runs, the Lumberjacks showed the poise one would expect from a veteran group, as the team clinched a trip to the Class AA state tournament with a 3-0 win over the Vikings.

“You’re always nervous in a game like this, but like we talked about it before the game, you guys have been through this,” Cloquet-Carlton head coach Dustin Randall said. “You know this feeling and the other team doesn’t, and we have to take advantage of that.”

Randall acknowledged that the level of play gets ramped up when the stakes are either win or go home.

“It’s hard. These finals are hard. They’re hard games to play in, and the intensity is different,” Randall said.

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The team’s core of nine players from the previous two section title runs includes juniors Katelyn Olson, Macava Smith and Alexa Snesrud, along with seniors Katie Turner, Kate Conway, Olivia Jameson, Jillian McCullough, Caley Cruse and Sadie Senich.

Together, the group has formed a winning tradition that dates back to when they were at the youth level..

“They’ve been doing this for a long time,” Randall said. “I mean, a lot of these girls have been there for these years, so it’s a close group. They’ve been playing together since they were kids, all of them, so it’s a tight-knit group.”

The cohesive play was demonstrated early on in the match as the Lumberjacks jumped out to a 1-0 lead less than 10 minutes into the first half when junior forward Snesrud pounced on a loose ball created by senior forward Turner near the North Branch net.

“She (Turner) just knocked the ball loose and I just went for it,” Snesrud said. “All or nothing, you know?”

The assist by Turner was the first of two in the match as the Northern Michigan commit played a role in the team’s second goal by senior defender Olivia Macaulay at the 19-minute mark of the second half. Macaulay’s strike from long range showed the versatility of the team’s back end, according to Randall.

“Our back end is a really great group, and they’re really hard to break down,” Randall said. “We got two goals from defenders today, so I mean they do it all over the field. It’s nice to have them.”

Jameson, a senior defender, scored the team’s third and final goal of the match just before time elapsed on a free kick from 30 yards out. The seeing-eye kick sailed over the North Branch goalkeeper’s head and into the net and sent the Cloquet-Carlton fanbase into a frenzy.

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Cloquet-Carlton’s goalkeeper, junior Katelyn Olson, faced little pressure in the winning effort, but was sharp on North Branch’s lone shot of the match early in the second half.

The win moves the Lumberjacks to a record of 16-2 heading into the state tournament. Looking ahead, Randall said the team is eager to show what it's capable of after falling to Holy Angels in its previous state tournament match in 2019.

“Well, we want to belong now. We don’t want to be an outsider looking in just feeling lucky to get there. We’re ready. We’re ready to play….We didn’t get to play last year, but this year we want to make a dent. We want to show what we can do,” Randall said.

North Branch: 0-0 — 0

C-C: 1-2 3

First half 1. C-C, Alexa Snesrud (Katie Turner), 10th.

Second half 2. C-C, Olivia Macaulay (Turner), 19th; Olivia Jameson, 37th.

Saves Katelyn Olson, C-C, 1.

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Related Topics: CLOQUETSOCCER
Jake Przytarski is a reporter for the Cloquet Pine Journal covering a mix of news and sports.
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