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Greyhounds, Mother Nature win in Esko

Esko's Sydney Hansen competes for the ball between Duluth East defenders during the Monday, Sept. 24, soccer match. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal1 / 2
Esko goalkeeper Macy Sunnarborg (right) and teammate Tori Vosburg stop Duluth East's Bre Archer from scoring during the Monday, Sept. 24, match. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal2 / 2

ESKO — While goalkeeper Macy Sunnarborg and forward Annika Wold play two entirely different positions on the soccer field, it hasn't stopped the pair of close Esko seniors from trying to spend some time in the other's shoes.

Those shoes — or cleats, in this sport — have been filled in the past, where, on rare occasion, Sunnarborg has exchanged her goalie gloves to go up front, even taking a penalty kick once, while Wold bravely goes in net at practice.

"The team joke is that I'm the backup — maybe if we were up six to zero," Wold said with a laugh earlier this week. "There's just no way that I could do Macy's job out there."

"Goalkeeper fits me well," added Sunnarborg, who admitted her field skills aren't anything like Wold's. "She definitely has more running skill. She's just always all over the place."

While the two didn't swap roles Monday, Sept. 24, against Duluth East, Sunnarborg, Wold and Co. displayed their skills despite a soggy, 2-0 defeat to the Greyhounds at a rain-soaked Esko Stadium, where everyone in attendance was drenched.

"My feet felt like water buckets," said Sunnarborg, who had measly 1.07 goals against average entering the night, but let two slide by her Monday. "The ball was slippery."

While the rain stopped slightly in parts of the first and second halves, it came back, and a stiff north wind was evident early, changing directions throughout the evening.

In all, while Duluth East won, so, too, did Mother Nature.

"It's a monsoon every time we come here," said Steve Polkowski, dressed in a black Greyhounds parka and rain gear in now his 10th season with the program, ninth with the girls.

"The weather was definitely a factor," added Esko co-coach Nicki Peterson, with her rain hood up, standing next to fellow co-coach and warmly-dressed Alissa Anderson.

Despite the inclement conditions for soccer, Peterson didn't make excuses afterward, explaining they didn't possess the ball well — being outshot by Duluth East 14-2 — as the Greyhounds broke a scoreless halftime tie in the 53rd minute when freshman Erin Christensen snuck the ball past Sunnarborg — her first career goal in her first varsity game.

Not long after the celebration, Gaby Johnson tapped in a Molly Henderson corner kick among traffic in the 66th and the Greyounds (4-7-1), winners of four in a row, won again.

Goalkeeper Quinn Clark, meanwhile, made two saves.

Polkowski, also a high school world history teacher at Cloquet, was wet, but pleased afterward, making a point that the Eskomos (7-4-1) are always a tough test for opponents.

"They always play hard and give everything they got. We appreciate playing them. We just mucked two in at the right place and right time," Polkowski said. "But whenever you play Esko, they're going to have some crazy-good athletes."

That starts with Sunnarborg and Wold. While the 5-foot-8 speedster in Wold leads the team with 12 goals on 32 shots the fall, the 5-10, long-armed and fearless Sunnarborg is equally as effective between the pipes, having allowed just 14 goals on 135 shots for 121 saves in 980 minutes this season.

Sunnarborg, with five shutouts, posted 12 saves Monday.

"We rely on her a lot," said Wold, who also plays basketball with Sunnarborg. "We're really lucky to have her."

"We get compliments all the time," Peterson said.

Combine Sunnarborg's and Wold's nine years on varsity — along with six fellow seniors and all-class junior defender Tori Vosburg — and the Eskomos are in the Section 7A mix.

"If Macy gets hot with a forward like Wold, it's going to cause some problems," Polkowski said about Esko.

"I hope she gets hot because if she does, there's no chance for the other team," Wold added. "Anything can happen."

Esko 0-0—0

Duluth East 0-2—2

First half — No scoring.

Second half — 1. DE, Erin Christensen (Molly Henderson), 53rd; 2. DE, Gaby Johnson (Abby Olson), 66th.

Saves — Quinn Clark, DE, 2; Macy Sunnarborg, E, 12.