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Tigers record first WIAA tournament win ever

The New Richmond boys soccer team upset River Falls in a shootout in the opening round of WIAA Division 1 regional tournament play on Thursday.

This is the first win in WIAA tournament play for the Tigers since they became a varsity team.

That win put the Tigers into the regional finals against number one seed Hudson on Saturday. The Raiders showed why they were the top seed in the area, overwhelming the Tigers 5-0. Eau Claire Memorial topped Eau Claire North in the other regional final game in Hudson on Saturday. The Old Abes won the game 1-0 in the second overtime period.

New Richmond and River Falls were tied 2-2 at the end of regulation in Thursday's regional opener in River Falls. Two overtime periods went by without a goal. New Richmond's Bradley Gartner then scored the winning goal in the shootout.

River Falls had scored first in the game, off a free kick. The Tigers came back to tie the game when senior Arthur Karut scored off a free kick. The game was tied 1-1 at halftime.

"They probably had more score opportunities in the first half," said Tiger coach Pete Melloy.

River Falls took the lead again early in the second half, scoring off a free kick.

The Tigers forced the action for much of the second half and that intense play resulted in the tying goal. Immediately after the RF goal, the Tigers scored off the direct kick. Jordan Anderson took the ball and sent a lead pass to Mitch Cooper who was sprinting down the sideline. Cooper was able to get beyond the Wildcat defense and cleanly beat the goalie for the tying score.

The score remained tied at the end of regulation. It stayed tied through the first overtime period, and then through the second overtime period. That led to the shootout. Gartner was the sixth shooter in the shootout, hitting the winner. River Falls then got one shot to tie the score, but Tiger goalie James Kelly deflected the shot away to secure the Tiger win.

The win over River Falls put the Tigers in the upper stratosphere of area soccer versus Hudson. Hudson reached the state quarterfinals last year.

"And I think they're a better team this year," Melloy said. "They're the most skilled team we've played all year."

Hudson plays a different style of soccer than any other team in this area. With the Raiders exceptional team speed, they boot the ball a long way and try to outsprint opponent's defensive players to the ball. With that speed the Raiders use the whole width of their large home field to spread out opposing defenses.

The Tigers were able to keep the Raiders off the scoreboard until midway through the first period. The Raiders got another goal to lead 2-0 at halftime.

The back-breaker for the Tigers came when Hudson scored 30 seconds into the second half.

"That broke our spirits a little bit," Melloy admitted.

Melloy said he felt the Tigers played well, despite the final score.

"Hudson was on their A game. I was happy with our all-around performance," Melloy said.

The Tigers finish the season with a 16-6 record. They accomplished their two landmark goals for the season. They earned their first conference championship and they earned their first ever WIAA tournament win.

Dave Newman
Dave Newman has been the sports editor at the New Richmond News since 1988. He has covered the action in the Middle Border Conference, Dunn-St. Croix Conference and Big Rivers Conference for nearly 30 years.
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