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New Richmond girls soccer starts MBC season 1-0-1

New Richmond’s Mykayla Gefeke (17) works to control the ball along the sideline during last Tuesday’s game on the artificial turf field at Osceola. 1 / 2
New Richmond senior Bethany Haag (14) takes the ball away from an Osceola player during the Tigers’ 2-0 win last Tuesday. 2 / 2

After winning one game last season, the New Richmond girls soccer team wanted to make sure it got out to a better start this season.

The Tigers accomplished that by winning their season opener last Tuesday, on the artificial turf at Robert Vesperman Stadium in Osceola. The Tigers scored early in the game, before adding an insurance goal with nine minutes remaining to overcome the Chieftains 2-0.

The Tigers followed that up with a strong performance in their home-field debut on Thursday. The Tigers faced Hayward, a team considered one of the favorites to win the Middle Border Conference crown, and the teams played to a double-overtime, 0-0 tie.

This is an extremely young Tiger team. Only three seniors returned this season. Of the 29 girls on the roster, 16 are new to the team. While this leaves the Tigers light on experience, the team does have some distinct strengths to build around. The lineup has been structured to have its most experienced players anchoring the defense. That is based around senior Tina Montpetit, third-year starter Morgan Graham and second-year goalkeeper Caty Brayall.

“Caty’s aggressive. She doesn’t back down from anything,” said Tiger varsity coach Steve Tesar.

While the Tigers don’t have a great deal of experience at the offensive end of the field, this team does have excellent quickness. Tesar said the Tigers have to accentuate that quickness by playing aggressively at all times.

One of the girls who is leading that aggressive style is senior Bethany Haag. She’s in her first year on the varsity and she’s fresh off being a powerlifting national placewinner. She uses that strength to win one-on-one battles for the ball, something the entire team is looking to do more often this season.

Montpetit scored the Tigers’ first goal on Tuesday in the 17th minute of the game. While she’s playing most of the game on defense, the coaches want to use Montpetit’s experience at forward in scoring situations. They moved her up to forward in the 13th minute of the game and she scored four minutes later, off an assist from Cassie Kletschka.

The score stayed at 1-0 until the 71:18 mark. New Richmond’s Gaby Cruz won a battle for the ball about 20 yards from the Osceola goal. She immediately cut loose with a shot that reached the net before the Osceola keeper had time to adjust.

Thursday’s tie may be as significant for the Tigers as Tuesday’s win. Hayward has won three of the past five Middle Border Conference championships. While the Hurricanes slipped partway down the standings last season, they have been particularly tough on the Tigers through the years. Thursday’s tie was the first conference point the Tigers have been able to earn against Hayward in four years.

Tesar said this was an odd game, with both teams holding control of the ball for long periods of time. He said Hayward kept the Tigers pinned in their defensive end for the first 20 minutes of the game, before the Tigers made some adjustments and kept the Hurricanes pinned in their defensive end for the rest of the first half. He said the second half followed an almost identical pattern. Hayward then dominated time of possession in the first overtime, but the Tigers bounced back to control the action for most of the second overtime.

The defenses for both teams played well, preventing either team from having many great scoring opportunities. Tesar said Hayward had the best scoring chance. Late in the game, Brayall made a leaping save, slapping the ball back toward the field of play. She then raced out to dive on the ball as two Hayward players came sliding in, hoping to knock the rebound into the goal.

This was Brayall’s second straight shutout to start the season, after having one shutout all of last season.

Eastern teams

The Tigers got a new experience this weekend, playing three teams from the eastern side of the state. The Tigers played in a tournament on Friday and Saturday at Wausau, hosted by D.C. Everest.

The first opponent for the Tigers was Rhinelander, the two-time defending Great Northern Conference champions. The Tigers lost 3-1, but played evenly with the Hodags following the first 10 minutes of the game. The Tigers actually forced most of the action in the first seven minutes of the game, nearly scoring off a corner kick. Rhinelander then took possession of the ball and made a run down the field, with the Tigers called for a foul near their own goal.

Rhinelander scored on the ensuing penalty kick. While the Tigers were reeling from that goal, the Hodags scored again two minutes later.

Tesar then made the decision to have a Tiger defender shadow Rhinelander’s best player. She was held scoreless the rest of the game.

The Tigers cut the margin to 2-1 five minutes into the second half. Harley Leavens made an alert play at midfield, stepping in to intercept a cross-field pass. She immediately sent a pass ahead to Cassie Kletschka, who one-timed a shot pass the Rhinelander goalkeeper from 18 yards out.

Minutes later, a Rhinelander player was injured, causing a prolonged break. The coaches decided to shorten the game, which was nearing 10:30 p.m. Rhinelander scored a few minutes before the game ended.

The next opponent for the Tigers was West Bend East, early on Saturday. West Bend is located northwest of Milwaukee and this game gave the Tigers the chance to experience the more physical brand of soccer that’s played in the southern part of the state. West Bend scored a 5-1 win in the game. West Bend scored twice in the opening minutes of the game before the Tigers adjusted.

“That’s Milwaukee soccer. We got pushed around. They learned they have to get aggressive to win the ball,” Tesar said.

The Tigers got their goal in the second half. Lexi Brown took a corner kick from the left edge, dropping the ball at the 18-yard mark. Sydney Simpson stepped up and drilled a shot past the West Bend goalie.

Giving up early goals proved extremely costly for the Tigers in their second game Saturday, against Hustisford. Hustisford is just south of the Horicon National Wildlife Refuge, northwest of Milwaukee. Hustisford scored in the opening minute of the game and it ended up being the only goal of the game.

The elements ended up playing a large part in this game. The game was played in rainy, windy conditions with the girls playing through several minutes of hail to compound their misery.

“It was a good learning experience,” Tesar said of one of the first chances for the Tigers to play teams from the eastern side of the state in program history. “We played three physical games. At the end, they were beat up and sore.”

The Tigers get a break in their schedule because the game originally scheduled for this Thursday at Superior has been postponed until May 2. The Tigers will play this Saturday at Menomonie before playing at Somerset next Tuesday.

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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