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Rice Lake jolts Somerset soccer team out of WIAA playoffs

Somerset senior defender Josh Lee (19) battles an Osceola player for control of the ball during the Spartans’ playoff victory last Tuesday. 1 / 3
Somerset senior Thomas Bauer (7) drives to the end during the Spartans' playoff win against Osceola.2 / 3
Somerset senior Jon Bucklew (3) ranks among the leading high school soccer scorers in the state this fall.3 / 3

After winning the Middle Border Conference championship, the Somerset boys soccer team envisioned similar success in the WIAA Division 3 playoffs.

Rice Lake’s boys didn’t allow that to happen. Somerset was upset in the regional championship on its home field last Thursday. Rice Lake completely stymied the Spartan attack, beating Somerset 4-0.

The most successful season in Somerset soccer history ends with a 16-4-1 record. The loss snapped a string of 12 straight wins by the Spartans.

This was the first time a large class of talented athletes has come through the Spartan program together. Fifteen seniors will be graduating from the Spartan team.

“This group of seniors definitely left their mark,” said Spartan coach Bill Roll. “They built the road to the conference title. They put Somerset soccer on the map and made a name for the program.”

The loss to Rice Lake hinged on the final minutes of the first half. Somerset senior defender Jake Scott suffered a broken ankle when a Rice Lake player attempted a sliding tackle with just over three minutes left in the half. Less than two minutes later, Rice Lake scored the only goal of the first half.

Rice Lake got its second goal early in the second half when a ball deflected off a Spartan defender and into the Somerset goal.

“That was the back breaker,” Roll said. “After that we self-destructed. We weren’t playing our style.”

The score remained 2-0 until the final minutes when the Spartans were pushing up, trying to create scoring chances. Twice Rice Lake players got behind the Somerset defense and were able to break in cleanly for goals.

This was a clash of teams with vastly different styles. Somerset is a team that uses quickness and finesse, while Rice Lake is a large, physical team.  When these teams met on Oct. 3, it was a tightly officiated game which Somerset won handily.

“Rice Lake was a lot more physical, a lot more aggressive than the last time,” Roll said.

Rice Lake used its best player to shadow Somerset leading scorer Jon Bucklew and the Warriors prevented 38-goal scorer Gavin Meader from getting any runs at the net.

Somerset keeper Aaron Joppru made 14 saves in the game. He finishes his senior season with an .899 save percentage, allowing .089 goals per game. The Spartans allowed 19 goals in their 21 games.

Before facing Rice Lake, the Spartans earned their 16th win of the season by beating Osceola 7-2 last Tuesday in the opening round of the Division 3 playoffs.

Osceola got the Spartans’ attention by scoring 75 seconds into the game.

“We were playing really flat, with no energy,” Roll said of his team’s start.

The Spartans reacted quickly to that goal. Meader scored in the seventh and ninth minutes. Thomas Bauer and Bucklew scored 11 seconds apart in the 15th minute as the Spartans quickly took control in the rainy conditions.

The Spartans had another defensive breakdown in the 30th minute that led to Osceola’s second goal. Again the Spartans answered quickly, with Bucklew scoring 50 seconds later.

The score stayed 5-2 until Scott scored in the 57th minute off a direct free kick. Meader and Rhys Linke combined for the Spartans’ final goal in the 62nd minute.

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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