Cassidy Sternhagen (No. 9) gets around an Assumption player to reach for a header during Saturday’s Sectional final.
Cassidy Sternhagen (No. 9) gets around an Assumption player to reach for a header during Saturday’s Sectional final.
The Northland Pines girls soccer team saw its season come to an end following a 3-0 loss to undefeated Wisconsin Rapids Assumption in the WIAA Division 4 Sectional final game played at Washington Soccer Fields in Wisconsin Rapids on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

The Eagles advanced to the Sectional final with a 1-0 win over Washburn/Bayfield last Thursday. The Eagles ended their season with a 12-10-2 record, while Assumption, 22-0-0 advanced to the State Tournament in Milwaukee for the second straight season.

“Well, it wasn’t the ending we were hoping for, but like I told the girls before the game, we are a team that does not quit. We are resilient and play with heart,” said Pines coach Rodney Sternhagen.

“This season we overcame so many obstacles thrown at us. A season riddled with injuries, battling Mother Nature, sicknesses and other items outside our control. But the bottom line was, these girls kept stepping up and rising to the occasion,” said Sternhagen. “Today, they pushed through, even though we had two injured and three feeling or overcoming sicknesses. I am extremely proud of every single girl on this team.

“After the game, the Assumption coach said this is the best team they played all year and by far the best defensive team they have seen,” said Sternhagen. “That’s a credit to our girls’ effort.”

It looked like the game could be a blow out early, as a steady drizzle resulted in a slippery playing field and ball, and two quick Assumption goals.

Just 5:14 into the game, Assumption’s leading scorer got on the end of a nice crossing pass and put it into the net, making it 1-0.

Less than a minute later, a shot at Pines’ keeper Emily Rottier-Douangmala slipped through her hands and legs to make it 2-0, just 6 minutes into the game.

“This was a tough goal for Emily and I am sure she wants that one back,” said Sternhagen. “This seemed to wake up our defense and we tightened up defensively and went into half, down 2-0.

“Early in the game, I think the girls came out nervous and chased the ball. Against a good possession team like Assumption, you can’t chase, as they will pick you apart and run you into the turf,” said Sternhagen. “They did that early and we were able put up a bunch of shots and get the ball into the 18, multiple times.”

At halftime, Sternhagen said the coaches talked about playing the game the way they have been working all year, with one player on the ball and the others closing the passing lanes. Offensively, he said the Eagles needed to not panic when they got the ball and to find other teammates’ feet with crisp passes.

Assumption still out-possessed the Eagles in the second half, but Pines gave up very few shots, other than a 40-yard shot in the 56th minute that slid between the crossbar and the outstretched arms of Rottier-Douangmala to make it 3-0.

Rottier-Douangmala made some huge saves late in the game as Pines began to tire against a talented Assumption team.

“I truly believe we will be watching Assumption next Saturday in the Division 4 State Championship game,” said Sternhagen.

Rottier-Douangmala had 22 saves as Assumption attempted 34 shots. Assumption also had five corner kicks.

Northland Pines put up four shots, with all four on frame, and one corner kick.

“Looking back at a team that started 0-5, the hard work and team mentality paid off. These fabulous girls turned what could have been a horrendous losing season into a miraculous winning season, at 12-10-2,” said Sternhagen.

Sternhagen said the eight seniors on the team helped turn the season around.

“I want to give a huge shout out to our seniors who will be sorely missed. Their character, hard work and mentoring of a very inexperienced, young team will etch their legacy into Northland Pines girls soccer. Thank you Rose Tyler, Grace Wittkopf, Ashlynn Boxrucker, Megan Ritzer, Lauren Reese and captains Maleea Eggleston, Samantha Haiduk, Ellyn Reese and Carolyn Schaars,” said the coach.

Sectional semifinal win

The second-seeded Northland Pines Eagles surprised top-seeded Washburn/Bayfield 1-0 last Thursday at Washburn to advance to the Sectional final.

The Eagles came out of the gate with a set play, putting the ball on the net the first drive down the field, when Haiduk took the kick off and booted the ball towards a streaking Wittkopf, who took a shot.

Washburn punted the ball and their midfielder took it right back down with a through ball on the right side, only to have Pines’ defender Maleea Eggleston shut down the attack and cleared the ball up field.

At the 2:45 minute of the game, Grace Plank played a direct-through ball to Zoe Anderson’s feet, who out-muscled a Washburn defender and beat the goal, one zero to give Pines an early 1-0 lead.

Washburn out possessed Pines for much of the half, but the Eagles continued with solid defense and gave up very few quality shots on frame.

“On the other hand, we may have not possessed as well as Washburn, but we did have more scoring opportunities than they did,” said Sternhagen.

The Washburn keeper made a huge save late in the first half when their defender tripped Schaars in the box. On the penalty kick, Haiduk made a nice shot low to the right post, but the Washburn goalie made a stretched out save to keep the game at one goal.

In the second half, Anderson and the Washburn keeper chased a 50/50 ball in which Anderson tapped it behind the goalie, but a slight obstruction by a Washburn defender allowed the keeper to get her hands over the ball to top another great scoring opportunity for Pines.

Then late in the second half, Anderson broke free coming from right to left and shooting to the far-right post with a kick that caught the post. The ball dropped right into the penalty kick area, but there were no Eagles close to tap it into the net.

“We played strong defensively as Washburn made a push late, but the girls stayed composed, holding off Washburn,” said Sternhagen. Washburn/Bayfield took 14 total shots to Pines’ seven, but both teams only had five shots apiece on frame. Pines had four fouls and Washburn was called for one foul.