October 18, 2013
Duluth News Tribune
Duluth Denfeld tops Hermantown in shootout for 7A title
By Louie St. George III
Duluth Denfeld girls soccer coach Ron Weber said his team practiced penalty kicks all week leading up to the Section 7A title game.
That prophetic bit of planning paid big dividends Thursday as the Hunters edged Hermantown in a shootout at Public Schools Stadium.
That the section final came down to a shootout was a surprise to absolutely no one. Dating back to the second half of the teams’ first meeting on Sept. 17 — a 1-1 tie — the Hunters and Hawks played more than 231 consecutive minutes of scoreless soccer, including a 0-0 draw on Oct. 7.
Taylor Olson’s goal on Denfeld’s fourth try of the shootout proved to be the game-winner, and the senior — one of 10 on the Hunters’ roster — admitted to a healthy dose of nerves.
“There’s always pressure, always, but you pull through it,” Olson said as her teammates celebrated behind her. “I just knew that I had to make it. I knew I had to go execute like I do in practice, and that’s all I thought about — ‘this is just like practice, I got it.’ ”
Olson’s goal gave second-seeded Denfeld (13-3-3) a 3-1 lead with two Hermantown players left to shoot, and when Mikayla Kero’s attempt sailed wide, the Hunters launched into celebration of their first trip to state since 2000 as maroon and gold-clad fans poured from the stands onto the PSS turf.
“Absolutely great,” Weber said when asked how it felt to be returning to state. “It’s been a slow train coming, but it’s here.”
Thursday’s game, so evenly matched throughout, was destined for overtime almost from the start. Both teams had quality chances, but keepers Megan Lazzaro (Denfeld) and Allison Samberg (Hermantown) refused to flinch. Lazzaro had eight saves, while Samberg stopped 12 shots.
The Hunters’ Paige Kessler got a look at an open net in the 44th minute, but her long-distance try went wide. Later in the second half, Mariah Kratt fired just over the cross bar for the top-seeded Hawks (14-2-3).
Hermantown coach Scott Larson refused to lament the missed opportunities.
“You can’t look back too much. What good is that going to do you?” Larson said. “They hit a post, we hit a post, they had a couple that probably should have gone in, we had a couple that probably should have gone in.”
None of them did, though, at least in the game’s first 100 minutes.
Emily Fleissner and Kaylee Rackliffe sandwiched goals on Denfeld’s first two shootout attempts around a liner from Hermantown’s Hailey Hoff that sailed high. Alyssa Siljendahl missed on the Hawks’ second attempt, but Britta Savre kept Hermantown in it when she scored to make it 2-1.
It wasn’t enough, however, as Olson put the Hunters on the brink of a section crown moments later.
And now, Denfeld, which has won eight straight, is headed south.
“We’ve worked so hard this year,” Olson said. “We had the team to go to state, and we made it. I’m so proud of everyone.”
Duluth Denfeld ........ 0-0-0-0—0
Hermantown ............ 0-0-0-0—0
Denfeld wins shootout 3-1
First half — No scoring.
Second half — No scoring.
First overtime — No scoring.
Second overtime — No scoring.
Saves — Megan Lazzaro, DD, 8; Allison Samberg, H, 12.