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Booters seek strong finish

River Falls freshman Lindsey Szymanski (4) battles Hudson senior Isabel Wiste (3) for a bouncing ball at the top of the box in the first half of the Wildcats' 4-0 loss to the Raiders Tuesday, May 7 in Hudson. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 1 / 2
River Falls freshman Liv Nelson (8) tries to fake out Uhdson’s Ella Young in the first half of the Wildcats' 4-0 loss to the Raiders Tuesday, May 7 in Hudson. Bob Burrows / RiverTown Multimedia 2 / 2

The young Wildcat girls' soccer team dropped its second game of the season to Big Rivers Conference leader Hudson last Tuesday, May 7. But for 75 minutes at least, River Falls coach Charles Conley thought the Cats went toe-to-toe with the Raiders.

"They are a senior laden team, with a ton of experience and time playing together," Conley said after the 4-0 loss. "They are really good this year and I always tell my teams, as long as we walk off of the field proud of how we played, the result doesn't matter."

The Raiders were clinging to a 1-0 lead after a goal in the 23rd minute before scoring three times in the final 15 minutes to stay perfect in BRC play with a record of 9-0. The Wildcats' only two conference losses this season have both come to Hudson.

"We will come up against teams who are better than we are, we just want to keep it tight, play hard and not allow the game to get out of control," Conley said. "I thought for the first 75 minutes or so we did that. Unfortunately at that point, after the second goal, we got a bit frustrated and let things slip away in the final 10 minutes."

The Wildcats weren't going to let anything slip away Thursday at Menomonie. Freshman Lexi Szymanski registered her third hat trick of the season and twin sister Lynsey Szymanski, Mady Shew and Olivia Bell had a goal each as the Cats completed a season sweep of the Mustangs with a 6-1 victory.

"Menomonie is always a fun game to play," Conley said. "For the most part the girls played very well. There were a few stretches where we played down to their level a bit, but we'd catch ourselves and straighten things out."

Conley said the Cats also used the opportunity to implement a new formation they intend to add to their arsenal for the postseason.

"There were some bumps and some confusion, but all-in-all the girls adapted nicely and I think it will fit our style of play very well," Conley said. "We are also still working on not hitting those periods where we lose our focus and allow teams who shouldn't score on us to score. All in all a good performance."

The Wildcats, now 9-4-2 overall, 7-2-1 in the BRC, hosted Rice Lake at UW-River Falls' David Smith Stadium in a make-up game after press time Tuesday, May 14, before visiting Eau Claire Memorial Thursday, May 16. They will wrap up the regular season with a pair of road games next week-- Tuesday, May 21 at Chippewa Falls and Thursday, May 23, at Superior-- before WIAA Regional play begins Tuesday, May 28.

Conley said he's looking forward to a strong end of the season for the Cats.

"We are excited to see a stretch of nice weather and get some consistent training in to prepare for playoffs," he said. Seeds one through four will be really tough this year. Traditionally, once you get beyond No. 2 our region hasn't provided much of a challenge. This year will be different."

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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