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Booters blank Hudson Raiders, tie Old Abes

Hudson's Ashley Iverson (9) and River Falls' Ashley Brown (8) battle for a ball in the air in the first half of the teams' Big Rivers Conference showdown at Wildcat Field last Tuesday. Brown scored the only goal of the game to give the Wildcats a 1-0 win. Bob Burrows photo

All in all, it was a pretty good week for the Wildcat girls' soccer team.

The Cats avenged a loss to Hudson earlier this season by blanking the Raiders, 1-0, at home last Tuesday, then went on the road and made up for an early season loss to Eau Claire Memorial by playing to a 1-1, double overtime tie.

In the process, they got to raise money and awareness in the battle against breast cancer. And they got to meet former Green Bay Packer great LeRoy Butler.

Butler was in Eau Claire to represent his LeRoy Butler Foundation for Breast Cancer and attend the Old Abes' "Go Pink" game against River Falls. Eau Claire Memorial players wore pink shirts and River Falls wore green shirts with pink numbers. Players from both teams took part in a halftime ceremony honoring local breast cancer survivors.

"It was a great experience for them to go through, and I can't wait until next year when we can host a game of our own," Wildcat head coach Steph Nelson said. "With the number of women affected by breast cancer, I think it's great for our communities to try to raise money now so that the girls we are coaching have a brighter, healthier future."

Spectators also got to see a pretty good soccer game. Even though the Old Abes outshot the Wildcats 145-7, River Falls kept plenty of pressure on the Memorial defense and got its only goal of the game off the foot of sophomore Sarah Vitale, assisted by senior Allie Sollom.

Keeper Madde Bump kept the Wildcats in the game by making five saves, two of which Nelson described as "huge."

"One of the last scoring opportunities they had was a beautiful shot that she timed perfectly and tipped it up and over the net," Nelson said. "It was very late in the game when we were tired, and it would have given the Old Abes the edge and the win."

Nelson said the Cats played with "heart, intensity and fire."

"The girls were exhausted from our battle on Tuesday against Hudson, and you could see it at times but they never stopped," she said. "These girls are phenomenal athletes, as well as great overall kids with a great work ethic. Each and every one of them played a great game. Eau Claire Memorial is a great team to play against. They are classy kids who work hard to win, so tonight's tie is a very admirable tie. A win would have been phenomenal, but against a team like them I will take a tie any day."

The Cats played their first hard-fought game of the week two days earlier, when they defeated Hudson 1-0 on a windswept Wildcat Field.

"The win played a huge factor in who was dominating," Nelson said. "In the first half, we dominated and we were fortunate enough to finish one of our opportunities. "Then in the second half we had to just focus on defense and try to shut down any of their attempts."

Ashley Brown accounted for the only goal of the game late in the first half while Nelson said Bump played her best game of the season with four saves.

"We tried a lot of new stuff tonight so it was kind of scary for the players playing new positions," the coach said. "We have a lot more ideas for what we can be doing for games to come, so it's nice to know that the girls can be so versatile and willing to do whatever is best for the team."