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Wildcat booters earn top seed, move on to regional play

<i>Bob Burrows photo</i> Wildcat junior Roxie Fusilier (3) and the Rice Lake goalkeeper fight for the ball in the air on a corner kick in the first half of the Cats' 2-1 victory over the Warriors Thursday at Wildcat Field. The Wildcats ended the regular season with a record of 13-1-3 and earned the No. 1 seed in the regional.

The Wildcat girls' soccer team put the finishing touches on its Big Rivers Conference championship season with a 2-1 victory over Rice Lake May 27. Now comes the next challenge.

The Cats, who ended the regular season with a record of 13-1-3, earned the No. 1 seed in this week's WIAA Division 1 regional and will host No. 8 Superior (3-18-0) in a regional semifinal 5 p.m. June3. A win would keep them at home for the regional final June 5 against either No. 4 Chippewa Falls or No. 5 Menomonie.

After a tie and a loss in their previous two contests, the Wildcats regained their winning ways May 27 on Senior Night.

"We once again had a lot of shots sail wide and a few passed literally bounce through our legs right in front of the goal," Wildcat coach Steph Nelson said. "But the shots are slowly but surely getting closer."

Sophomore Bailey LaPoint scored the only goal of the first half on a blast from nearly 40 yards out that hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced down across the goal line. Junior Sarah Vitale picked up an assist.

After dominating possession in the first half, Nelson said the Cats started slowly after intermission, which led to Rice Lake tying the score nine minutes in.

But the Cats picked things up after that, and with about five minutes remaining, Junior Emily Blasius crossed a ball from the end line which bounced off the post to a wide open Ella Bump, and the senior redirected the ball across the goal line before the Rice Lake keeper could get to it.

"It's not exactly how I wanted the game to go," Nelson said. "We need to figure out how to score again before regional start. But at least we have sole ownership of the conference championship."

Bob Burrows
Bob Burrows has been sports editor at the River Falls Journal since 1996 and at the Hudson Star-Observer since 2009. Prior to joining the Journal, Burrows served as sports editor with Ledger Publications in Balsam Lake, Wis. A native of Bayonne, N.J. and a U.S. Navy veteran, Burrows attended Marquette University before completing his studies at UW-River Falls in 1992.
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