Tigers get first playoff win, lose in regional final
The New Richmond girls soccer team earned its first-ever WIAA tournament win last Thursday, then was defeated in the WIAA regional championships on Saturday morning.
The Tigers opened the Division 2 regionals last Thursday with a 4-3 overtime win at Spooner, a team that had beaten the Tigers the previous week.
That win moved the Tigers into the regional championship game against top seed Hayward. The Tigers kept the game close through the first half, trailing 1-0 at halftime. In the second half Hayward was able to score three times, advancing to sectionals with a 4-0 win.
The Tigers were charged up to play at Spooner, after a controversial loss to the Rails in their last meeting. Spooner scored 1:36 into the game. The Tigers responded with two quick goals, from Steph Anderson and Erin Atterholt.
"We played a phenomenal half. The girls came out ready to play," said Tiger coach Charles Conley. "Halftime was the worst thing to happen to us."
The halftime break seemed to sap the momentum that had carried the Tigers through much of the first half. Spooner scored twice quickly in the second half, leaving the Tigers facing a 3-2 deficit.
With two minutes left in regulation, the Tigers suffered an injury, making things look even more bleak. Seconds after the injury, the Tigers' outlook went from bleak to bright. Kiris Brockmiller fed a pass to Brianna Richter and Richter drove the ball past the Spooner goaltender to tie the score at 3-3.
That goal gave the Tigers a huge lift and they controlled most of the action in the overtime. They scored the game-winner on excellent ball movement. Brockmiller passed the ball ahead to Richter in the corner. Richter then centered the ball to Atterholt, who buried the ball in the Spooner net for the winner.
"It was definitely a fun game to be part of," Conley said.
There were no favors done to the Tigers in the scheduling of the regional final game. The Tigers had to leave for Hayward at 6:30 a.m. This game happened to be played the night after the NRHS graduation ceremony and all-night graduation lock-in for the Tiger seniors. There are five seniors on the Tiger roster.
The plan for this game was to play a diamond defense against Hayward, with Brockmiller used as the sweeper. Hayward had scored nine goals against the Tigers in their previous two meetings and the Tiger coaches thought this gave New Richmond the best chance at a win Saturday.
The strategy worked through the first half. Hayward scored one goal early in the half. Once the Tigers adjusted to the 10 a.m. starting time, their play improved.
"After 10 or 15 minutes, we started to match their tempo," Conley said.
The Tigers hopes turned on an injury early in the second half. Brockmiller went down with an ankle injury that would keep her out the rest of the game. The Tiger coaches moved Tasia Kelley to sweeper, but the team was not able to maintain its strong defensive play and Hayward got three goals after the injury.
The first varsity season for the Tigers ends with the team's record at 7-13-1.
"I think we have a bright future for this program," said Conley, who has been busy arranging opportunities for the girls to play during the summer. "We surpassed a lot of people's expectations but we fell short of our ultimate goals."