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Booters battle Big Rivers' best

Wildcat junior co-captain Austin Saari fakes out a Hudson defender before delivering a shot on goal in the first half of the Cats Big Rivers Conference showdown with the Raiders last Tuesday night in Hudson. Saari gave River Falls an early 1-0 lead but Hudson responded with five unanswered goals to take a 5-1 win. Bob Burrows photo

The growing pains are becoming less and less severe for the young Wildcat boys' soccer team.

The Cats battled the top two teams in the Big Rivers Conference last week and despite not coming away with a win, showed they are ready to compete with anybody.

Last Tuesday in Hudson, River Falls controlled most of the first and played even with the Raiders for all but about three minutes of the second half. Unfortunately Hudson scored three goals in that span of three minutes to snap a 1-1 halftime tie on its way to a 5-1 win.

"We were very pleased with our play and had Hudson a bit frustrated for awhile," Wildcat head coach Charles Conley said. "About 10 minutes into the second half, there was a three minute time frame in which Hudson pounded us and scored three times. After this three minute period we regained some composure, but by then it was too late."

Junior co-captain Austin Saari put River Falls ahead 1-0 about four minutes in and the Raiders couldn't answer until the 30 minute mark. Hudson scored three quick goals in the second half and added another late to make the final 5-1 and remain undefeated at 3-0-1 in the BRC, 4-0-1 overall.

Conley said he stressed the positives when addressing his team afterward.

"It is tough not to, but I have told the guys it takes time, and to try not to focus too much on results as we grow as a team," he said.

The Cats faced Eau Claire Memorial, who tied Hudson 1-1 earlier this season, Thursday at home and gave the Old Abes a run for their money before coming out on the short end of a 1-0 decision.

The game was scoreless at halftime with River Falls holding a 7-4 advantage in shots on goal, including a pair of shots by junior Brian Gregg that sailed just wide.

Eau Claire Memorial came out physical in the second half and finally beat Wildcat goalkeeper Karl Andersen just inside the near post about 15 minutes in for the only goal of the game.

"The squad is looking much better," Conley said. "We seem to have found a fix at the goalkeeper position, and defensively they are starting to figure out the new system. You can tell the guys are understanding the system much better and we are now beginning to tighten things up, rather than teach the concepts."

The Cats (0-4) will host Osceola in a nonconference match Thursday at 5 p.m. and return to BRC action Tuesday, Sept. 15, at home against Rice Lake (0-3).