The Rhinelander High School girls' soccer team was only one goal shy of upsetting No. 2 seed Pulaski on the road in the WIAA Division 1 regional final match on Saturday at Pulaski Middle School. But unfortunately the Hodags would give up a last-minute goal to Brooke Schauer and would end their 2017 season with a 3-2 loss.
It was a tough loss for RHS, who would snap their regional title streak after earning the previous four and was also the second consecutive year the Red Raiders would end the Hodags’ season.
Pulaski would hold possession a majority of the game, but Rhinelander still managed to capitalize on opportunities to stay close. It also showed a much improved Hodag team from the first time RHS faced the Raiders and fell 5-1 in the beginning of April.
RHS would strike first in the 11th minute of action when Lauren Fabich found Alayna Franson. Beating Pulaski's defense, Franson fired from the 18-yard box and connected to give the Hodags' an early one goal advantage.
Rhinelander would hold the lead for over 15 minutes, before Maggie Hernandez of Pulaski connected on her first goal of the night in the 26th minute of action. The Hodags and Red Raiders would go into halftime tied 1-1.
But the Hodag's were unable to hold Hernandez off the board in the second half. In the 54th minute, Hernandez would have the go-ahead goal to give Pulaski a 2-1 lead.
Neither offense would score again for another 25 minutes, when RHS found the back of the net on their second of goal of the night in the 81st minute. Senior Sydney Zettler fired the initial shot that deflected off a Raider defender. And Brooke Mork was there for the rebound and put a shot passed keeper Malorie Schultz to tie the game up 2-2.
It appeared as if the game was going to go into overtime as the minutes dwindled down, but a lapse in Rhinelander's defense would allow the winning goal with 42 seconds left in regulation. Hernandez set up the play in the 90th minute as the Hodags' defense collapsed on her just outside the 18. Hernandez found Brooke Schauer open, who dribbled a few times and had a hard shot that goalie Abby Oettinger got a hand on, but still trickled into the goal.
The Hodags had a few opportunities on the net that they were unable to capitalize despite the Red Raiders controlling tempo on the night. Pulaski outshot RHS 26-11 in the match and Oettinger recorded seven saves and took the loss.
The Hodags' finished their 2017 season 20-4 overall despite finishing their season earlier then they wanted. The Hodag had a successful season and charted another Great Northern Conference title. Rhinelander had 10 seniors that concluded their high school soccer careers which included Zettler, Oettinger, Fabich, Albiona Sabani, Shelby Kuehn, Lauryn Cook, Sydney Zastrow, Haley Sisel, Lauryn Roberts, and Shea Petersen. Although RHS will lose several starting seniors and will have to fill the voids for 2018, they have plenty of experience and talent coming back.
The Rhinelander High School baseball team, who was the No. 6 seed in the WIAA Division 1 tournament nearly upset No. 3 seed, De Pere on the road at the Aurora BayCare Field. But the Hodags would give up three runs in the fifth after holding an early lead to fall 4-2 and conclude their 2017 season.
The Hodags' offense got going early in the contest and would take a 2-0 lead in the top of the second inning. Brad Quade led off, reaching on error. And Tyler Blomdahl had a two-run homer to left field off pitcher Matt Freeman of the Redbirds to spark the inning. Although RHS took a 2-0 advantage they only had one hit in the first five innings of the game.
De Pere would pull within one run in the bottom of the fourth and started with a single from Jordan Esser. He would then steal second, and with two outs Freeeman drove in Esser on a single. RHS would still hold a 2-1 lead, but that would be erased the next inning.
The Redbirds would rally back in the bottom of the fifth where they would plate three big runs to take the lead they would maintain until the end. Lucas Reynolds walked and Hunter Staniske was hit by a pitch. Jacob Enli singled to load the bases for De Pere. Esser would tie the game up 2-2 after a sacrifice fly, scoring Reynolds.
Jake Fietz of the Redbirds would connect on a two-RBI double that beat left fielder Josh Randolph and would plate De Pere's final two runs of the night.
Rhinelander had chances down the stretch to get back some runs, but things did not go their way. In the sixth Randolph was tagged out running to first on a high throw. Easton Senoraske and Jacob DeMeyer each followed with singles to get on base. But Brad Comer grounded out on a double play to third to end the threat.
DeMeyer took the loss for the Hodags, giving up three earned runs on six hits. He walked four, hit one batter, and struck out four in five innings of work. Freeman earned the win on the mound for De Pere an pitched 6 1/3 innings. He gave up two earned runs on three hits. Freeman walked one and struck out four.
The Hodags finished the season 17-6 overall and it marked the final game for seven seniors; Blomdahl, Senoraske, Oliver Ebrecht, Kaden Umland, Alec Modrow, Matt Rudolph, and Tait Spencer.
Rhinelander will see many of those seniors returning for American Legion baseball, which quickly begins on Monday. The Post 7 Rebels will host Merrill Post 46 at Stafford Field.
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