The Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team saw their 2017 season come to an end on Thursday afternoon after falling in the WIAA Division 3 Sectional semifinal match. Amherst/Iola-Scandinavia/Rosholt co-op would capitalize on three of their 14 total shots to earn a 3-1 victory at the RHS soccer fields to advance to the sectional final match.
Despite holding possession and tallying 30 shots on the afternoon, Rhinelander was denied in all but one of those chances. The Hodags would have charted two more goals but were called off sides, and also had another close call early in the second half that was near goal after a scramble in the box.
Just 10 minutes into the match, the Hodags had several opportunities on goal including a free kick from junior Jonus Sabani in the 8th minute of action. Fellow junior Matthew Von Oepen scored on the play, but was waived offsides.
Amherst would use a breakaway to get on the board in the 17th minute of the match. After Rhinelander was comfortable maintaining possession in the attaching third, the Falcons forward speed from junior Carson Sneller and senior Luke Wright proved their counter-attack would be difficult to defend.
Wright slotted Sneller the ball through the heart of Rhinelander's defense, and Sneller finished the run, putting the ball past junior goalie Josh Randolph to the bottom left corner. The Falcons would take a 1-0 lead.
The Hodags once again had several chances to put in the equalizer but could not capitalize in the first half. Sabani had a shot 30-yards back that sailed up over the cross bar in the 20th minute. And approximately six minutes later, Sabani was called offsides on a questionable call. Sabani was lined up with the last Amherst defender and after the ball was kicked, used his speed to get passed the Falcons defense, which would have resulted in a one-on-one opportunity to score.
Despite being denied on countless chances, Rhinelander continued to battled. The Hodags had several looks in the final minutes of the first half including a shot with 48 seconds left from Von Oepen that was right at senior keeper Devin Toth.
Rhinelander came out strong in the second half and nearly scored in the first two minutes on senior Alex Lowry free kick about 20 yards back that went right of the goal. But just over a minute later, RHS finally converted.
In the 49th minute, Sabani cashed in the Hodags' only goal of the afternoon. After a corner kick, Sabani was able to get ahold of a loose ball near the penalty kick area and put one passed Toth to tie the game 1-1. Toth finished the match with 13 saves.
Rhinelander nearly scored again in the 55th minute off a corner kick with several chances after a scramble in the box. Daniel Ritchie's shot was deflected by Toth and bounced off the right post and then off the crossbar. It was close call, but the officials never called the goal.
Amherst would pull ahead after scoring in the 67th minute. Sneller had a breakaway and the Hodags were unable to clear the ball, and Hohn was at the back post to finish the play and give the Falcons a 2-1 advantage, and what proved to be the matching-winning goal.
Sneller added an insurance goal in the 86th minute and was his second score of the afternoon. Hohn was able to break passed Rhinelander's defense up the touchline and found Sneller on the two-on-one and put another shot passed Randolph.
Although the Falcons had a two-goal cushion, the Hodags' had several chances down the stretch, including a number of attempts with under 10 minutes left in the match. Sabani had a well-placed cross just inside the 18-yard box that freshman Hugh Wiese and Von Oepen both misplayed the ball and missed the kick. And in the 83rd minute, Sabani riffled a shot outside the 18 that hit off the right goal post.
Amherst advanced to the WIAA Division 3 sectional finals in Rice Lake on Saturday and will faced Amery who is ranked ninth.
It marked the final match for the eight varsity seniors which included; Schmitz, Lowry, Darin Bloomquist, Quinn Werner, Anthony Klabunde, Ryan Roberts, Gerald DuBois, and Fernando Montiel Duarte.
Despite the heartbreaking playoff loss, Rhinelander had a succesfull 2017 which included their first regional title in nine years and another Great Northern Conference championship title. The Hodags finished the season 16-4-2 overall.
The Rhinelander High School boys' soccer team earned the WIAA Division 3 Regional title after defeating No.4-seeded Clintonville 2-1. The Hodags used two first-half goals and were able to fend off a late Trucker rally at the RHS soccer field to secure the regional title on Saturday afternoon.
Matthew Von Oepen started the scoring for Rhinelander in the fourth minute of action. And Jonus Sabani would score for the Hodags in the 27th minute, which proved to be enough offense for the win. Clintonville pulled within one goal after Matthew Morse scored late in the second-half, but keeper Josh Randolph and the Hodag defense were able to limit the Truckers late push.
Rhinelander didn't waste any time with their scoring opportunities and scored only 3 minutes, 16 seconds into the match on an unassisted goal from Von Oepen. With the wind in the Hodags' favor, Von Oepen connected on a shot 30-yards back that trickled over keeper Seth Betz gloves and rolled back into the net.
From there, RHS continued to find scoring opportunities but missed the mark on their next six chances. Von Oepen missed left of the frame on a give-and-go opportunity from Sabani just minutes after his goal. Sabani missed a few attempts including a shot that sailed just above the cross bar in the 11th minute.
Richie Triplett and senior captain Joseph Schmitz also had back-to-back chances on goal starting in the 14th minute, but one shot missed high and the other went to the right of the goal post.
Moments later, the Trucker's Cesar Elias Hernandez had one his team's few shots on frame that he delivered from the top of the 18, but Randolph was there to make the stop. Nick Schoen of Clintonville would also have one of their shots on goal in the 23rd minute, but once again Randolph was there to cash in on the save.
Rhinelander would strike their second and final goal of the match in the 27th minute. Von Oepen sent a perfect cross inside the 18, and Sabani was there to redirected the ball on a header to the bottom right corner passed Betz.
With just over 13 minutes left in the first half, Hunter Hicks broke through Clintonville's defense and had a good look on goal, but his shit deflected off the left post. RHS would take 2-0 lead at halftime, and would prove to be enough offense to hold on and earn the win.
In the 65th minute, Freddy Wisner was yellow carded and Hernandez took the free kick about 30-yards back. Randolph was able to tip the shot up and over the cross bar and forced a corner.
Despite Rhinelander's early lead, the Truckers didn't back down from the challenge and would become more consistent in the second half and were able to capitalize on one scoring opportunity in the 79th minute. Junior Matthew Morse got passed the Hodags' defensive line, and dribbled in and connected to the bottom left corner.
The Hodags' controlled possession with less than three minutes and only allowed to the Trucker's to gain back the ball with under 10 seconds remaining, but was not enough to get a shot off.
Rhinelander outshot Clintonville 34-9 in the match and held a 16-4 advantage on shots on frame. Randolph recorded the win and finished the night with three saves.
RHS advanced to 16-3-2 overall and will host the WIAA D3 sectional semifinal on Thursday afternoon. The Hodags’ will take on the No.2-seed, Amherst/Iola-Scandinavia/Rosholt at 3:00PM at the RHS soccer fields. The winner of the sectional semifinal will then travel to Rice Lake on Saturday night to face the winner of the Amery/Rice Lake match.
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