Rhinelander goalkeeper Kahlie Arneson punts the ball during the first half of a Great Northern Conference girls’ soccer game against Ashland at the RHS soccer field Thursday, May 16. (Bob Mainhardt for the River News)
5/18/2019 7:33:00 AM Penalty kick gives Ashland another win, GNC title over Hodags
The Rhinelander High School girls' soccer team did all it could to keep an explosive Ashland team at bay Thursday night in a Great Northern Conference title fight, but it was not enough.
Abby Koehler converted a penalty kick for the Oredockers in the 46th minute, which proved to be the only goal in a 1-0 victory for Ashland over the Hodags in GNC final round play at the RHS soccer field.
The win clinched Ashland's second consecutive GNC title and gave the Oredockers three straight wins over the Hodags, dating back to last year, including a 2-0 win in Ashland on May 7 that put the Oredockers in command of the GNC title race.
Sophomore striker Alex Pieterek, a menace in the Hodag defensive backfield all night long, got free again in the back moments after halftime and had a breakaway on goal. Pieterek, Rhinelander keeper Kahlie Arneson and a Rhinelander defender all converged on the ball near the Hodag goal line and referee Rob Hom ruled a trip on the Hodags as they tried to slow down Pieterek.
Koehler beat Arnerson to keeper's left on the subsequent penalty kick for what proved to be the golden goal.
"On that PK, (Arneson) fought hard," coach Richard Kotula said. "The referee saw a trip. Getting scored on a PK really is kind of a heartbreaking thing for the team."
There was not much Rhinelander could do to respond against an Ashland team that controlled the possession most of the contest. The Oredockers limited Rhinelander to only four total shots in the game and one shot on goal.
That shot came in the 48th minute as sophomore Gwyn Lowry found some open space near the top of the 18-yard box, but topped a hurried shot at senior keeper Judith Wolfers for an easy save.
Rhinelander had a few other glimpses in the second half, but could not score the equalizer. Ella Schiek rainbowed a cross into the box that was affected by a strong northerly wind in the 58th minute. Wolfers came out to play the ball near the top of the six-yard box and muffed the catch, but the Hodags couldn't get a foot on the loose ball. Izzy Haverkampf, who scored four goals two nights earlier against Lakeland, fired a shot from just inside the 18-yard box in the 76th minute that barely sailed high and wide left.
"Some of the things we were doing in this game, we were just too anxious to get up front instead of playing our own game, building a good build up," Kotula said. "That's something we just discussed now as a team, making sure that something like that, when we continue in postseason. That we actually play the game we're accustom to."
Ashland had several opportunities to take the lead in the first half, but was unable to capitalize. Arneson denied Pieterek on a breakaway in the 21st minute and Pieterek missed good looks in the 22nd and 30th minutes - her shot in the 30th caromed off the bottom of the crossbar and bounded away from the goal. Arneson denied Pieterek again in the 34th minute and stopped Claire Custer's redirection of a cross inside the box in the 36th minute.
"Ashland's definitely a powerhouse, bringing their A-game to us," Kotula said. "I thought we did a very nice job defensively for the most part eliminating their threats. We had to quickly recognize their speed, which was much faster than our backs. We had to switch to a different strategy to eliminate some of those passes.
Arneson was credited with six saves in the loss but had a very active night in the Hodag goal.
"Kahlie had an amazing day today. She definitely saved us multiple times," Kotula said.
Rhinelander closes the regular season next Thursday at Northland Pines, before beginning preparations for the WIAA tournament. Kotula said the Hodags received a No. 1 seed for the upcoming Division 2 playoffs, will receive a first-round bye and will open the postseason June 1 at the RHS soccer fields.
Official tournament brackets had not been published by the WIAA as of deadline.
"We're shifting our focus now to the postseason and what we can do to make a good playoff run," he said. "Having home games will help us create a home atmosphere with the parents and fans. We're excited for that next chapter."
Jeremy Mayo may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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