The Forest Lake girls’ soccer team concluded its season last Thursday, losing in a close match against St. Francis during the first round of Class 7AA section playoffs.
Following a goal by sophomore Sammi Weigel with about 10 minutes remaining in the first half to tie it at 1-1, the Rangers entered a scoreless stalemate during the second half that continued through two overtime periods. With junior goalie Loren Kempenich out with a broken leg, sophomore Cassidy Baker represented Forest Lake in net.
Captains Olivia Norman, Skye Finley, Lara Steinhoff, ninth-grader Abby Steinhoff and sophomore Chevelle Palomino were designated to shoot for Forest Lake.
The Rangers shot first in the shootout, and senior captain Olivia Norman put the first ball in the upper right corner, past the Fighting Saints’ goalkeeper. St. Francis answered with two successful ground shots to the right after Forest Lake was unable to answer on the second attempt.
Forest Lake junior Lara Steinhoff was the only other Ranger to score of the five designated to shoot, while Baker stopped one of the next two attacks on net. The Rangers’ fifth attempt was stopped short, and the squad lost the shootout 3-2.
Head coach Hanz Lehrke said he was upset it had to come down to a shootout, but felt that Baker performed well.
“From a shooting standpoint, I was disappointed because we had everyone on the field who we thought were the best shooters,” Lehrke said. “I was somewhat confident because their goalie was shorter and and Cassidy has good reflexes. It’s a difficult scenario when you haven’t spent much time on varsity, you know, and I think she has done a really nice job for us at keeper.”
Lehrke also said it’s always tough to end a game or season on a shootout, and looking back on the season, thought the way his girls responded after losing to St. Francis was indicative of how tight-knit his team was this year.
“You just saw the whole team run to her [Cassidy], and that was very impressive,” Lehrke said. “They really played this game for each other, we’ve had some individualism like anyone, but it was good to see that the girls were all back to being just one team.”
Of that team, Forest Lake will be losing just two seniors, Skye Finley and Norman. It won’t be easy to fill their shoes, however, as both Finley and Norman proved formidable forces at both ends of the field.
Although she’s also a scoring threat, Lehrke used Finley’s versatility during the final game as a defender to give the newly-appointed varsity goalie, Baker, some cushion in net. The Rangers will also miss Finley’s ability to hit the unassisted long shots on offense.
“The expectations of the players in the program for themselves and the teams have risen because of her dedication and never-quit attitude,” Lehrke said. “The program will miss her and I will miss her.”
Norman commanded control at midfield. Lehrke said the senior led by example on and off the field, and is one of those players that “just gets the game.”
“Every coach we’ve ever played knew who that left midfielder was,” Lehrke said. “Liv’s very unselfish and she really foregone all her stats to set others up. She really understood what it meant to be the rock of the team.”
Forest Lake finished the year at 5-11-1, a one-game improvement from last season. It marks the first time the Rangers have had two conference wins (Hastings and East Ridge) since the 2009 season.