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Somerset girls soccer earns first WIAA playoff win since 2010

Somerset’s Anna Rybacki (5) is congratulated by teammate Tori Gareis (4) after Rybacki scored her second goal in the Spartans’ playoff win against Baldwin-Woodville last Thursday.

The Somerset girls soccer team earned the program’s first WIAA playoff win since 2010 and the Spartans nearly advanced to the WIAA Division 3 sectional tournament.

In Saturday’s regional final at Rice Lake, the Spartans scored the quickest goal to start a game in team history, striking 12 seconds into the game. The score was tied 1-1 until Rice Lake scored the go-ahead goal with six minutes remaining, vaulting the Warriors into this week’s sectional tournament.

Somerset finished the season with an 11-6-2 record. That’s a vast improvement over the team’s 5-13-2 mark in 2016.

The Spartans qualified for Saturday’s regional final by earning their first WIAA playoff win since 2010. That win came on the Spartans’ home field last Thursday, when the Spartans scored a 2-1 win over a stubborn Baldwin- Woodville team.

All three of the goals in Thursday’s game were scored in the first 11:14 of the action. Both of Somerset’s goals were scored by junior Anna Rybacki. Her first goal came 5:43 into the action. Briggan Harris sliced a pass ahead to Rybacki as Rybacki cut past her B-W defender. Rybacki was able to first a shot at a sharp angle that was just out of the reach of the B-W keeper.

B-W struck back at the 7:56 mark. The Blackhawks were able to spring their leading scorer for a clean run at the goal and she was able to convert on the chance.

The game was tied in less than four minutes. The Spartans got the ball ahead to Rybacki, this time on a pass from Anya Swanson, and Rybacki scored at the 11:14 mark.

From there, the defenses took over, with scoreless play the rest of the way.

“We knew Baldwin would be a tough challenge,” said first-year Somerset coach Bill Roll.

Roll said the Spartans’ depth was a key element in this win. This game was played in the most severe heat the teams had faced all season. Somerset’s ability to substitute with little dropoff in skill level, allowed the coaches to make sure every girl was able to stay fresh.

That led into Saturday night’s game at Rice Lake and likely the most unique start ever to a Spartan game. Somerset had the opening kickoff. Rice Lake had its two center girls charge the kickoff, but they didn’t connect with the ball. The kick went to Swanson, who made an inside diagonal run. Swanson booted the ball ahead to Rybacki, who was cutting behind the Rice Lake defense. Rybacki took a quick shot before the Rice Lake keeper could come out to cut down the angle, and the Spartans were on the board 12 seconds into the game.

The 1-0 lead stood until 10 minutes into the second half. Rice Lake had a girl break free down the right side of the field. All the Spartan defenders reacted her way and she sent a pass back to a teammate who had been left uncovered by the defensive shift.

“We got caught ball watching and not staying with our marks,” Roll said.

Both teams had good scoring chances in the second half. Rice Lake was finally able to convert, when the Spartans failed to clear the ball out of their defensive zone with six minutes remaining.

Roll said the loss stung, but the Spartans know that this was a season where the team saw immense growth. The Spartans graduate six seniors. Among them are key varsity contributors Briggan Harris, Rayna Sauers, Sydney Nelson and Anna Pasno.

“The expectations have changed, (the players) have different expectations of themselves,” Roll said. “We’re hoping to build upon this for next year.”

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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