The Rhinelander High School girls' soccer team had a big night from two of their top seniors; Alayna Franson and Anna Sturzl, in the WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal victory. Franson and Sturzl had a hand in nine of the Hodags 10 goals in the shutout win against New London on Thursday night at the RHS soccer fields.
Franson led the way with six goals including five straight in the first 45 minutes of action, while Sturzl added two goals and three assists. Brooke Mork and Gwyn Lowry each chipped in one goal in the win as well.
Rhinelander opened up their scoring in the ninth minute when Franson took a set corner kick with a short pass to Sturzl who curled around to fire 20 yards back on a shot that tucked into the top right corner.
Then in the 21st minute Franson would rally off five straight goals herself to give RHS a 6-0 advantage at halftime. Her first goal was unassisted that she fired from the top of the 18. Franson was score again in the 29th minute on a shot to the top right corner just inside the 18 to give RHS a 3-0 lead.
Franson would complete her hat-trick in the 40th minute on an assist from Sturzl that went to the bottom left corner and was fired just inside the 18 again. And about a minute and a half later the two would pair up again on a corner kick. Franson delivered the short kick to Sturzl, who tapped back on a give-and-go and Franson scored just beyond the penalty area for her fourth goal.
In the 44th minute center defender Kenedy Van Zile sent Jaden Olski on a run up the left touchline. Olski found Franson in the middle of the field and she dribbled her way through New London's defense and scored her fifth goal and Rhinelander took a 6-0 lead at the break.
The Hodags had several other chances to add to their lead in the first half. In the 25th minute senior Maddie Meyer crossed the ball in the box to Mork who had a hard-kicked shot but was right at keeper Bryanna Brost. Izzy Haverkampf also had a quality look in the 28th minute on a shot at the top of the 18 but was directly at Brost.
Rhinelander would carry the momentum into the second half and would score in just 38 seconds. Sturzl found Franson up the field, who then slotted a pass to Mork who was able to connect to give RHS a 7-0 lead.
Franson recorded her sixth and final goal of the night in the 53rd minute, dribbled through the Bulldogs' defense and easily tapped in a shot to the bottom right corner.
Sturzl would connect on her second goal of the night in the 58th minute on an assist from Kenedy Van Zile. Sturzl rocketed a shot 30 yards back that trickled off Brost's gloves to the top right corner. And freshman Gwyn Lowry capped off the scoring in the 83rd minute to end the game via the 10-goal mercy rule.
Rhinelander's defense held solid and limited New London's opportunities on the night. The best looks the Bulldogs seen were in the first half. In the 20th minute Lindsery Spoehr beat the Hodags up the right flank, but sophomore defender Madi Losch used her speed to recover and block the shot.
Shortly after Spoehr found Paige Fauscher on through-ball, but freshman goalie Kahlie Arneson was there to cover the ball before a shot. And again, in the 37th minute, Arneson pushed up to prevent Marissa Messina from getting off a shot. The Bulldog's best look in the second half came in the 77th minute on a direct free kick from Faucher 22 yards back but was right at senior keeper Jada Appling who replaced Arneson.
The Hodags held a 34-5 advantage on shots on the night including 23-2 on shots on goal. Rhinelander has shown some impressive playoffs results and have outscored their opponents 37-0 in their first three playoff matches.
Rhinelander will now advance to the WIAA Division 3 sectional finals match on Saturday where they will face third-seeded Rice Lake in Hayward. Rice Lake knocked off Ashland 2-1 and also qualified for state last season. Kickoff is set for 4:00PM in Hayward as the Hodags look to advance to the WIAA State tournament.