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April 25, 2019

4/9/2019 7:30:00 AM
Hodag soccer drops two to open season

Rhinelander High School girls' soccer coach Richard Kotula said he wanted a test as his team traveled to the Milwaukee area to open the season. The Hodags got that, and then some, Friday and Saturday.

Offensive opportunities were at a premium, and Rhinelander couldn't overcome conceding early goals in either contest, as they lost at Hartford Union 3-0 Friday night and at Pewaukee 6-0 Saturday afternoon.

"It was kind of a testing environment for us," Kotula said as the Hodags dropped the first two games in the post-Dan Millot era.

An offense that graduated its two top scorers from a year ago in Alayna Franson and Anna Sturzl, could not generate much of an attack over the weekend. The Hodags managed only five total shots Friday night and two on Saturday. The team collected only one shot on goal and did not have any corner kicks the entire weekend.

A big part of struggle, Kotula said, was the team just trying to get acclimated to playing with each other on a regulation pitch, after spending the first three weeks of practice indoors.

"I believe we found our formation and strategy in the second half against Pewaukee. We had small offensive opportunities that created a good spark," he said.

On Friday night, Hartford scored just shy of the three-minute mark and then tacked on a couple of goals midway through the second half.

Becca Stoeckmann got the scoring started in the third minute. Abby Hoffmann connected in the 62nd minute and Maddie Hoxworth rounded out the scoring for the Orioles in the 65th minute.

"They were an extremely fast team," Kotula said. "We could see that they also had a great possession and distribution, what you would expect from D1."

Sophomore goalkeeper Kahlie Arneson made 12 saves Friday night at Hartford and 10 saves Saturday against Pewaukee.

"I was extremely happy with the goaltending. Kahlie had some excellent saves. She had a great night," Kotula said of the Hartford game. "The goals that went in, with the exception of maybe the one goal where she was a little out of position, there was nothing she could do about. There were a number instances where she would run into the goal and save it. That was something good to see."

Pewaukee started fast Saturday with goals in the fourth, 10th and 20th minutes to take a 3-0 lead at halftime. The Pirates added goals in the 60th, 67th and 80th minutes during the second half.

"Pewaukee was another very skilled team - aggressive, fast - and a lot of seniors on their team that have been playing together a long time. They know exactly how to play," Kotula said. "Definitely we learned our defensive formation. We were trying to learn our defensive formation, how to play it and who could be the backups for our players. This year's going to be a little different. We don't have a lot of depth on our team. The girls will definitely have to figure out how to be successful in multiple positions on the field."

Rhinelander is idle until Friday when it travels to Wausau East for a non-conference match. Kotula said his team is ready to take on a team a little closer to home.

"I think the girls are ready to play an opponent in our area now that we have the experience playing these tough opponents," he said. "They were two tough losses for us, but we're taking it with a positive attitude knowing that we have good experience. We had the opportunity to see what we could do."

Jeremy Mayo may be reached at jeremy@rivernewsonline.com.





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