K-M one win from state
The Kasson-Mantorville girls soccer team went into their section seeding meeting a couple weeks ago thinking that they would get a pretty good draw for the upcoming tournament. The KoMets had played a tough schedule and had been playing some of their best soccer of the season leading up to the tourney, so a higher seed would have been something they felt they deserved.
Instead, they were awarded the sixth-seed, which was good enough for a home game, but also meant they would have to prove themselves if they wanted a shot at the section championship. Of course, there’s one way to prove everybody wrong come playoff time.
Just win anyway.
The KoMets did just that last week racking up a home victory against Winona, a road win against La Crescent and a home win against Plainview-Elgin-Millville that punched their ticket to the Section 1A championship game against Rochester Lourdes on Tuesday night.
The tournament run opened on October 10 when K-M hosted Winona in a rematch of a September 19 meeting which the Winhawks won 2-0. This time, the KoMets came out aggressively notching goals from Gwen Dole, Makayla Griffin, Chella Gonzalez and Arie Delzer. The defense also held its ground, holding the Winhawks to five shots on net in a 4-0 victory.
“We had lost to Winona a couple weeks ago, so we had a chance to redeem ourselves,” K-M girls soccer coach Chris Soderberg said. “Our girls came out with great energy to start the playoffs.”
The victory sent the KoMets into the quarterfinals where they met a La Crescent team they had defeated 3-0 at KMTelecom Stadium on September 23. With the field in very muddy conditions, Griffin was able to find her footing early burying the first goal to put the KoMets ahead 1-0. Then, late in the half, she was able to find the back of the net once again with a minute remaining to give K-M a 2-0 halftime lead.
“Makayla’s second goal was really a back breaker for La Crescent,” Soderberg observed. “La Crescent really picked up the intensity after that but our defense and [goalkeeper] Laken Bartel really came up big several times throughout the game.”
The Lancers would come out strong in the second half, but K-M kept their opportunities to a minimum. Delzer would eventually find an opening for the KoMets and bury an insurance goal to help K-M earn a 3-0 victory to survive and advance.
In the section semifinals on October 14, the KoMets would run into an opponent with a similar path to the game. P-E-M entered the tournament as a seven-seed, but was able to take care of three-time defending section champion Dover-Eyota in the quarterfinals. That would bring the KoMets back home where they enjoyed an advantage despite more sloppy weather.
The Bulldogs came out conservative and dropped eight players back in order to slow down the K-M offense. The result was a scoreless first half where neither team had many opportunities to break the scoreless tie.
“It was a good strategy,” Soderberg said. “They owned possession for most of the night and we had a hard time getting shots with all those defenders.”
Finally, the KoMets would find daylight when the Bulldogs turned it over deep in their own zone. Chella Gonzalez was relentless and picked the ball away from a pair of defenders for a clear shot in the box that found the back of the net and gave K-M the goal they needed to put the Bulldogs away in a 1-0 victory.
“It was a well earned goal,” Soderberg said. “Her tenacity paid off for us there.”
Bartel would save three shots on net to earn her third straight shutout to open the postseason.
With the win, K-M advances to the Section 1A championship game for a shot at earning their first state tournament berth in five seasons. The Eagles and KoMets clashed back on September 7 in a 4-0 game that was broken open thanks to three second half goals. Soderberg and the rest of his team believes that this will be a closer affair and with eight wins in their past nine games, K-M has a chance to make an improbable run to state.
“We are playing our best soccer right now,” Soderberg declared. “I like our chances against Lourdes, but they’re a well balanced team that will take advantage of mistakes. We need to give 100 percent mentally and physically to come out on top.”