Northland Pines’ Mason Jahnke (No. 11) tries to maintain possession around Bluejays defenders Austin Adams (No. 22) and Peyton Pitlik (No. 19) during last week’s Regional matchup. —Photo By Gary Ridderbusch
Northland Pines’ Mason Jahnke (No. 11) tries to maintain possession around Bluejays defenders Austin Adams (No. 22) and Peyton Pitlik (No. 19) during last week’s Regional matchup. —Photo By Gary Ridderbusch

The seventh-seeded Northland Pines Eagles boys soccer team upset second-seeded Three Lakes 1-0 in overtime last Thursday and then surprised third-seeded Barron 2-0 to win a WIAA Division 4 Regional championship last Saturday.

The Eagles will now travel to top-seeded Somerset this Thursday, Oct. 27, for the Sectional semifinal starting at 4 p.m. The Sectional final will be Saturday at Reit Athletic Complex in Arcadia at 1 p.m.

To get to the Sectional, Somerset beat eighth-seeded Northland Lutheran 3-0 and fourth-seeded Washburn/Bayfield in a shootout, 3-2.

In the battle at Three Lakes, Northland Pines’ striker Mason Jahnnke got the game-winner with just five seconds remaining in the second 10-minute half of overtime.

“Our boys realized that early in the season Three Lakes beat them 7-2, but the boys knew we were not the same team as we were the first game of the season and they wanted redemption on that loss,” said Pines coach Rodney Sternhagen. “They also were holding a bit of a grudge as every coach in our Regional, except Three Lakes, voted us a 7 seed and they knew we are capable of playing better than that. In our eyes, we should have been a 3 or 4 seed. The nice thing about being a low seed is teams may overlook us.”

Pines had multiple opportunities in the game to score early, but failed to convert.

“I give credit to the back four of Three Lakes as they stepped up and forced our attack to be offside seven times. These tactical plays foil a breakaway attack and they fooled our boys seven times. If our boys make better runs on these steps and our midfield gets the ball off their foot quicker, I like the odds of seven breakaways,” said Sternhagen.

Jahnke, a junior, missed a left-footed tap-in goal past Three Lakes’ senior keeper Russell Klein in the first half, just pushing it wide off the right post.

“The thought of a failed opportunity, followed by a capitalized opportunity by our opponent loomed, but our defense was just too solid all night,” said Sternhagen.

Three Lake never put up much of a scoring threat during regulation and the game ended in a 0-0 tie. The game headed into overtime with two 10-minute halves, but no golden goal. If there was still a tie, then there would be a 5-man shoot-out, according to referee Rob Hom.

Three Lakes got their best look in the game when their winger made a cross that dropped out of Pines’ keeper Eric Nagel’s hands and two Three Lakes forwards closing in on the left side of the goal frame. But the Eagles’ Cameron Birchbauer was close and quick to get in front of the rebound. Sam Warner and Birchbauer then teamed up to clear the ball.

“We regained composure and it was back and forth the first half of the OT. In the second, we had opportunities and Three Lakes did build an attack, but neither team really looked like they were going to end it and the game was looking like it would go to a shootout. I do not like seeing a team go home from a shootout,” said Sternhagen.

With about a 1 minute remaining in the second half of overtime, Three Lakes pressed up their players looking for a solid offensive attack. But the Eagles’ Carson Adamovich gained control, taking a touch and feeding a perfect pass through to Jahnke, who broke behind the Three Lakes defense for a breakaway. He dribbled to the right of the goal and placed the ball in the back of the net with just 5 seconds on the clock.

On the kick off, Three Lakes’ Tobias Volkmann placed a deep ball but it sailed right of goal to give Pines the 1-0 victory.

“These are tough games and I know that we can compete with any team in our Regional when we all play to our ability. These are a talented group of boys and if they can start playing more consistently, we can continue to challenge the higher-seed teams” said Sternhagen. “It was a very physical game and the refs allowed the physical play. They were consistent and allowed the boys to adjust and play the game, which was great to see. It seemed that we possessed the ball much more than they did, but they controlled the physical aspect of the game.”

Pines had 12 shots with six on goal, while Three Lakes had five shots with three on goal. Nagel made three saves and and Klein had five saves for the Jays. Both teams were whistled for 11 fouls. Pines had 10 corner kicks while three Lakes had just two.

Three Lakes co-coach Jack Wales said it was a battle from the start.

“It was one of those games that could have gone either way,” said Wales after the game. “It was too bad either team had to lose in this one.

“We are very proud of the season we had and the progress the players made as a team, and as individuals. We knew what Pines was going to do and the type of match they had to play to get the win. Pines was very physical, and at times had 9-10 players in the box making it hard to get any shot off. It went exactly as we expected except for the last-second goal giving Pines the win.

“We wish Pines and coach Rod Sternhagen the best of luck,” said Wales.

Regional Final

After a slow start in the Regional final on a short and narrow soccer field at Barron, the Eagles got a first-half goal and second-half penalty kick to win 2-0.

“When we got on the bus, assistant coach John Vojta asked me what our chances were and I stated we will win if the field doesn’t beat us. That was my only concern,” said Sternhagen. “We possessed the ball much of the game and the only real threat they had was a physical and speedy forward. If we could contain him, we would come out on top.”

During the first 10 minutes, the Eagles were chasing and not showing patience defending, according to Sternhagen. This allowed the Barron attackers to get behind the Eagles’ defense and allowed a few scoring opportunities.

After the first 10 minutes, Pines gained composure and started to take over the game. Thirty-seven minutes into the game, Pines took advantage of a foul outside the box.

Pines was able to execute the set play, when Cody Vojta served a perfect ball to a crashing Ryan Muench, who had an easy shot in the back of the net.

“At that point the tables really turned. Barron started chasing and booting the ball, feeling a sense of urgency. This unorganized play led to more attacks on our behalf and an attempted crossed ball found the outstretch hands of a scrambling Barron defender,” said Sternhagen. “The center ref did not see the hand ball, but the assistant reg had his flag up. After a long discussion between the center and the AR, they awarded Northland Pines a penalty kick.”

Ryan Muench made a perfectly placed shot and remained perfect on the season with his penalty kicks, lifting Pines to a 2-0 lead.

“We had some other scoring opportunities and Barron made a few pushes, but really in the second half our true enemy was the clock. The stats were in our favor and the better team took home the Regional championship plaque,” said Sternhagen.

Pines had 17 shots (11 on goal) and Barron had 10 shots (seven on goal). Nagel made seven saves for the Eagles and the Barron goalie make nine saves. Pines had 10 corner kicks, while Barron had just four. Pines was whistled for three fouls and Barron had five fouls.