Heartbreak for Raptors at State
So close, yet so far away.
The East Ridge girls soccer team, less than 40 seconds away from advancing to the Metrodome for the semifinals of the Class A State Tournament, instead saw their dreams of a State title in season one wash away in the autumn rains after a 2-1 loss to Cloquet in a sudden-death shootout.
The Raptors, seeded third in the bracket, looked tentative early in their inaugural State quarterfinal, yet the unseeded Lumberjacks could not take advantage as both clubs saw first-half opportunities come-and-go.
Coach Mark Abboud's club dialed up the pressure against Cloquet's offsides trap and would get ever closer to logging the contest's first tally, before finally breaking through in the 77th minute.
Anna Bygrave, who subbed into the game just seconds earlier, received a cross-pass from Val Woulfe -- who got 'Jacks goalkeeper Kaitrin Rathe to commit before skirting the ball across the goalbox -- and promptly planted the ball into the back of the net inside the near post for a 1-0 Raptors advantage.
However, the Section 7 champions would not go quietly into the rainy night -- instead hurling a bucket of cold water on the impending East Ridge victory celebration as the 'Jacks Haley Bassett finagled a leveling mark from just inside the endline, off an ERHS defender and into the side of the Raptors goal as the scoreboard suddenly showed a 1-1 tie...
...With a mere 39.8 seconds remaining in regulation.
East Ridge's last attempt at a pre-overtime victory came and went as a corner kick went for naught in the final 15 seconds of regulation.
Fruitless corner kicks would be the theme of overtime for the Raptors as the squad put up seven set plays at the Cloquet goal during a dominating overtime session.
Yet, despite buzzing around their opponents goal for the bulk of both 10-minute extra frames, East Ridge could not muster the game-winner with the most golden of chances -- a point-blank shot by Aileen Scheibner -- hauled in by a sprawling Rathe with 70 seconds left to play.
The game moved into the shootout round with East Ridge pulling a surprise as Abboud installed Diaz in between the pipes.
Diaz, an All-State Honorable Mention midfielder, replaced Kim Clinch, who came on after starting netminder Meagan Larson after the latter appeared to be kicked in the head while making a save early in the second half.
The gamble did not pay off for East Ridge as the junior was unable to come up with a stop on Cloquet's first four shots.
The 'Jacks went into the final kick of the first shootout round ahead 4-3 after Scheibner again saw her shot halted by Rathe on ERHS' first attempt.
Cloquet saw their initial chance to clinch matters go awry after Emily Johnson's would-be game-winner sailed wide.
Lauren Reid made good on the final kick of the first round for East Ridge and both teams went to the sudden-death stage still knotted up.
It would not last for long.
Cloquet's Kaitlyn Proulx beat Diaz to give her team the leg up, and eventually the triumph as Bygrave's endeavor was swatted away by Rathe as East Ridge's wildly-successful first season came to a gut-wrenching conclusion.
The Raptors wrap up 2009 with a final record of 13-7-1, while Cloquet (19-3-1) moves on to play second-seeded Blake (16-3-1) in the State semifinals next week.