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Booters to open playoffs at home

Wildcat freshman Sierra Becker (20) battles an Eau Claire North player for control of the ball in the second half of the Cats' 1-1 tie with the Huskies Thursday at Wildcat field. Bob Burrows photo

The Wildcat girls' soccer team defeated Rice Lake, 2-1 in overtime, before battling Eau Claire North to a 1-1 double overtime tie in its final two games of the regular season last week.

The Cats finished with records of 12-3-4 overall and 7-3-2 in the Big Rivers Conference. They earned the No. 3 seed in the first round of the WIAA Division 1 regional tournament and will host sixth-seeded Menomonie Thursday at 5 p.m. at Wildcat Field. The winner will face either No. 2 Hudson or No. 7 Superior Saturday at the home of the higher seed.

Last Tuesday at Rice Lake, the Wildcats outshot the Warriors 15-4 but needed Ella Bump's second goal of the game just under three minutes into overtime to earn the win.

"We played a good first half and pretty much dominated, but then we let the refs get to us instead of playing through," Wildcat coach Steph Nelson said. "The girls got frustrated and it all went downhill from there. We made a lot of mistakes and just did not play the way we are capable of playing."

Bump put River Falls on the board first at the 8:35 mark off a cross from Bailey LaPoint. The Warriors tied the score and had the Cats on the run until Sarah Vitale led Bump with a through ball and Bump buried it early in the overtime to give the Cats the win.

"We could have easily lost the game, but I think it was a good wake-up call to the girls that they need to mentally play well, as well as physical, every game," Nelson said. "We played well during the overtime, we just wished that we could have had that composure and drive during the second half so we could have won the game in regulation."

Thursday against Eau Claire North, Vitale scored the first goal of the game five minutes into the second half, assisted by Bump. But a handball in the box with five minutes remaining gave the Huskies a penalty shot and they converted to tie the score, 1-1.

Neither team was able to find the back of the net through two overtime periods.

River Falls finished with 10 shots to Eau Claire North's nine. Wildcat keeper Madde Bump finished with seven saves, including several key stops late in the game.

"Our second half started out strong, but for some reason we just could not clear or cross the ball with any authority," Nelson said. "North did a great job of just hammering the ball right back at us. That second overtime we cleaned up our defense a little and started giving better passes. It was nice to see such intensity."