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Soccer: Booters bounce back after blowout

River Falls' Devlin Laidlaw (10) directs a header just over the crossbar in the first half of the Wildcat boys' soccer team's 5-3 win over New Richmond Friday, Sept. 14 in River Falls. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
River Falls’ Gage Espanet (9) gets by a New Richmond defender in the first half of the Wildcat boys' soccer team's 5-3 win over New Richmond Friday, Sept. 14 in River Falls. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

Maybe a 9-0 loss to Eau Claire Memorial wasn't such a bad thing.

Less than a week after their lopsided loss to the defending Big Rivers Conference champions, the Wildcat boys' soccer team rallied from a two-goal deficit to salvage a 3-3 BRC tie at Eau Claire North Thursday, Sept. 13, before defeating New Richmond, 5-3, in a match with sectional seeding implications Friday, Sept. 14, at home.

Head coach Marcos Rodriguez said the Sept. 7 loss to the Old Abes may have been just what the Wildcats needed.

"With how we have been playing, I really think we learned a lot from our Memorial game," he said. "I think we are starting to find our form at the right time of the year, and think we could really make a good run this season."

Thursday, Sept. 13, at Eau Claire North, the Cats scored two goals in the final 16 minutes to pull out a 3-3 tie with the Huskies.

North struck first after a scoreless first half but Karl Linton put the Wildcats on the board with a shot into the upper corner of the net following a 30-yard run off an assist for Connor Weinzirl.

North capitalized on a pair of Wildcat mistakes to open up a 3-1 lead with 30 minutes left, but Owen Wise hit a shot into the far upper corner for an unassisted goal and Gage Espanet blew by two North defenders to score the tying goal with 12 minutes remaining.

Rodriguez said the Cats had a pair chances to get the game-winner in the closing minutes but came up short.

"I was really proud of how hard they would fight to get back into this game," he said. "It just shows the growth so far this season."

Friday at home Espanet finished off a nice run up the left side for a goal five minutes in before New Richmond answered with a goal of its own.

Devlin Laidlaw then connected on a corner kick by Espanet and drilled a header past the Tiger keeper for a 2-1 Wildcat lead but the Tigers would answer again to make it a 2-2 tie at the break.

Josh Linton scored the go-ahead goal five minutes into the second half before Weinzirl scored twice, sandwiched around a goal by New Richmond, to make the final 5-3.

"This was a game I felt we really had control over the entire time," Rodriguez said. "We moved the ball really well, our defense made some good reads and steps. Our midfield was really able to get forward and create good through balls and we also answered really well after giving up goals."

The Wildcats, now 4-3-2 overall, 2-2-1 in the BRC, hosted BRC leader Hudson Tuesday, Sept. 18, and will visit Menomonie Thursday, Sept. 20, before returning home to host another potential sectional opponent, Marshfield, Saturday, Sept. 22, at 11 a.m.

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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