It marked the first time in eight seasons that the Rhinelander High School girls' soccer team did not earn the Great Northern Conference title and were only one-win shy of advancing to the WIAA State Tournament in Division 3. The Hodags finished 6-1 in the GNC and 12-7 overall for the 2018.
Despite not completing a pair of their team goals, Rhinelander still had plenty to look back on and to measure their success. Here is a look back at their downfalls, successes, seniors, and what to look forward to for the 2019 season.
With the late start to their outdoor season due to the weather and the first half of the GNC cancelled, it proved to be a make or break season. The conference turned into a single-round robin schedule verses playing each team twice. And the only conference goal the Hodags would concede would prove to be the difference between first place and second place in the GNC.
In the middle of May, Rhinelander hosted Ashland their top conference rival this year at the RHS soccer field and couldn't find a way to contain GNC offensive player of the year, Kaylee McPeak. The only goal of the match came in the 21st minute from McPeak and proved to be enough to earn the 1-0 win and knocked Rhinelander off and the Oredockers would go on to finish with a perfect 7-0 conference record and earned the title. Not only was it a tough loss on their home pitch but marked the first time since 2011 that the GNC trophy went to another team other than Rhinelander.
Although the Hodags would still have a shot to make it through the Division 3 bracket and would have a good chance at heading to state. But in a defining loss, the Hodags would fall 2-1 to Rice Lake in the sectional final match.
Rhinelander would lead all statistics on the match against the Warriors except goals scored and came down to not finishing their opportunities. Rice Lake went on to advance to state for the second straight year after a pair of goals from Callie McCullough and Sarah Weber in the first half. Freshman Ella Schiek would cut Rice Lake's lead in half after a goal early in the first half, but RHS was unable to find the equalizer from there despite a number of quality chances.
Starting the season, the Hodags had a few voids to fill including goalkeeper. There were four Rhinelander players who battled for that starting position and senior Jada Appling and freshman Kahlie Arneson split time in goal and proved to be the top two to get the job done. Arneson was 6-4 with a 1.50 goals against average and had a .809 save percentage. While Appling went 6-3 with a 1.85 goals against average and also earned honorable mention conference honors as a goalie.
Rhinelander had a large senior class, but only had three of them make-up the starting 11; Appling and their top scoring threats Alayna Franson and Anna Sturzl. Both Sturzl and Franson earned first-team unanimous GNC honors and would combine to score 47 goals and 35 assists on the year. Franson had 25 points in the conference including nine goals and seven assists. While Sturzl had eight goals and two assists for 18 points in the conference. Franson and Sturzl would score 50% of Rhinelander's goals throughout the GNC and would be just under 60% of the teams' assists in conference action as well.
Looking at next season, the Hodags have several voids to fill including their top scorers Sturzl and Franson along with keeper Appling. Arneson will likely take over in goal while sophomore Izzy Haverkampf and freshman Ella Schiek will be the top scorers to return next season. Haverkampf recorded 14 goals, 1 assist and Schiek charted 11 goals, 2 assists throughout the year.
Rhinelander will also return Brooke Mork and Payton VanZile for their senior season. Both primarly were defenders but have Mork played striker on a few occasions this season as well as VanZile moving to a midfielder. Defender Gwen Lowry will return to Rhinelander's back line. And Kenedy Van Zile will be back for her junior year. Kenedy Van Zile scored 3 goals, 3 assists throughout the season and proved be one of the teams' top versatile players after seeing time as a defender, midfielder, and striker. Van Zile will likely take over Franson's position as an attacking-mid.
Although the Hodags will lose their top two scorers and one of their top keepers to graduation, and they know if they put in the work they will continue to see success. One of their top goals for next season is to regain the Great Northern Conference title, from there after moving to Division 3, they look to make a deep playoff run and have another shot at making it to Milwaukee for the WIAA state tournament.
The Rhinelander High School girls' soccer team was only one win away from advancing to the 2018 WIAA State tournament but would come up short against Rice Lake on Saturday evening in Hayward at Heidi Friermood field. The Hodags would led in all statistics on the night except goals and just were unable to capitalize on their opportunities and would fall 2-1 to the Warriors in the Division 3 sectional final match. Rice Lake would advance to state for their second straight year.
The Hodags started the match strong and would hold possession for most of the first 15 minutes, but a goal from Callie McCullough in the 17th minute and another from Sarah Weber later in the first half proved to be the difference. Freshman Ella Schiek scored Rhinelander's only goal early in the first half, but they were unable to find the equalizer.
Rhinelander senior captains Alayna Franson and Anna Sturzl both had quality looks on goal within the first five minutes of the match. Franson has a pair of shots and Sturzl added another which all sailed high above the cross bar. Junior Payton Van Zile also put a well-placed shot from 23-yards back in the ninth minute that Olson deflected out of bounds.
McCullough and Weber also had chances to score right before they got on the board. First in the 16th minute, McCullough found Weber up the field who fired a shot 25 yards back but missed wide. Shortly after McCullough delivered a shot from the 18 that missed the top right corner.
But the Warriors finally capitalized on one of their few first-half opportunities in the 17th minute. Weber sent a cross from the left touch line and McCullough was there to redirect the ball to the bottom left corner and gave Rice Lake a 1-0 lead.
The Hodags where finally able to put more of their shots on frame midway through the first half. In the 20th minute Sturzl curved a shot from 25-yards back the just missed the top right corner. While Franson also continued to find open looks, this time in the 24th minute just inside the 18-yard box but her shot was right at senior keeper Brooke Olson.
Rhinelander's opportunities began to decrease as the first half progressed and Rice Lake would again strike on one of their few shots on frame in the first half in the 31st minute. This time Weber received the ball on a run and was able to split the Hodags' defense up the middle and would beat freshman keeper Kahlie Arneson to the bottom right corner for the Warriors second and final goal of the night, which proved enough to advance.
Rice Lake had a chance to tack on to their two-goal lead in the final minutes of the half after there was a scramble in the Hodags' 18-yard box off a corner kick. The Hodags managed to clear the ball and shortly after found Sturzl up the left flank. Sturzl would find Franson just outside the 18. Franson took a few dribbles and fired a shot but was directly at Olson and the Warriors would take a 2-0 lead at the break.
The Hodags once again came out strong and continued to find their chances at scoring. Schiek had an open look just two minutes into the second half that just missed the top left corner on a cross from Gwyn Lowry. Shortly after Franson took a corner that Schiek was able to get a head on but missed high to the right of the goal post. Franson also put another shot on frame in the 52rd minute that was right at Olson.
The Warriors had to back-to-back chances to add to their lead starting in the 54th minute when Weber had a breakaway chance that she pulled her head and missed high. Rice Lake freshman Elle Antonson also had an open look three minutes later but was right at Arneson.
Rhinelander cashed in on their one and only goal of the night in the 57th minute. Franson took a corner for a short pass to Sturzl who delivered the cross inside the box, Olson missed the cross and Ella Schiek was on the back post to tap the ball in and pulled the Hodags within a goal.
The Hodags had a few chances down the stretch to put the equalizer in but did not have any luck. In the 62nd minute Franson had a through-ball to Lowry, who got passed the defense but missed to the left of the goal on an attempt six yard back. Kenedy Van Zile crossed a ball inside the box to Sturzl in the 72nd minute, but her shot at the penalty area missed right.
RHS had their opportunists but just could not capitalize on enough to advance to state. Rhinelander held a 25-14 advantage on total shots on the night which included a 12-5 advantage on shots on goal. The Hodags finished the season with 12-7-0 record.
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