October 13, 2013
Duluth News Tribune
Denfeld one step closer to state
By Louie St. George III
With 10 seniors entering the twilight of their prep soccer careers, Duluth Denfeld is itching to snap a 13-year state-tournament drought.
To achieve that goal, the Hunters need goals, and they displayed the necessary firepower Saturday at Public Schools Stadium, where they rolled to a 5-1 victory over Duluth Marshall in a Section 7A girls soccer quarterfinal.
Denfeld wasted little time in shrugging off a modest scoring slump — the Hunters had tallied just one goal in their previous two games — as Cali Marsaa, Paige Kessler, Emma Kloster and Diadora Finley all found the back of the net in the match’s first 27 minutes.
“We’ve been in a scoring rut a little bit lately, and in practice we’ve definitely been working on finishing,” said Denfeld’s Emily Fleissner, who piled up eight goals and seven assists during the regular season. “Getting those, I know a lot of people on our team needed it just for a little confidence boost.”
While most teams are committed to the “one game at a time” mantra, the Hunters know they have a viable shot at representing Section 7A at the state tournament in two weeks. It’s a goal they’ve been working tirelessly toward for years, and the team’s 10 seniors would like nothing more than to be the group that gets Denfeld over the hump.
“For a lot of us, it’s obviously our last year and we’re trying to put everything we have into this,” Fleissner said.
Dangling a state-tournament berth as the proverbial carrot is all the motivation Hunters coach Ron Weber needs.
“That’s always your aspiration, and the seniors want it even more because they realize this is the last hurrah,” Weber said.
Duluth Marshall, which enjoyed a bit of a renaissance this season while winning eight games and nabbing the No. 7 seed for the playoffs, got on the board in the 23rd minute when Alli McKenna broke free behind the Denfeld defense to make it 3-1. The early deficit, though, was too much to overcome for the Hilltoppers (8-10).
“You really get back on your heels a little bit when you fall behind, and we couldn’t quite dig ourselves out,” said Marshall coach Matt Whittaker, whose team beat Hibbing-Chisholm in overtime in the first round.
The second-seeded Hunters (11-3-3) move on to the semifinals, where they will face No. 6 Princeton (7-5-6) on Tuesday. The Tigers upset No. 3 Chisago Lakes Area 1-0 on Saturday. The other semifinal pits top-seeded Hermantown against No. 4 Proctor, with the championship game set for Thursday.
The four remaining teams, so evenly matched, should offer the kind of drama befitting the postseason.
Denfeld would love to nix that drama by replicating the offensive prowess it displayed Saturday. If that happens, an elusive invite to the state tournament could be in the offing.
“It’s our last year, so we want to go all the way,” said Kessler, who notched her team-leading 11th goal of the season on a high-arcing kick midway through the first half Saturday. “It’s everyone’s dream to go to state, and we think we can this year with the players we have.”
Duluth Marshall ......... 1-0—1
Duluth Denfeld ........... 4-1—5
First half — 1. DD, Cali Marsaa (Taylor Olson), 11th minute; 2. DD, Paige Kessler, 17th; 3. DD, Emma Kloster, 22nd; 4. DM, Alli McKenna, 23rd; 5. DD, Diadora Finley (Darby Eilefson), 27th.
Second half — 6. DD, Taylor Olson, 61st.
Saves — Megan Lazzaro, DD, 3; Anna Thickens, DM, 9.