Coach, opponents shut out
Though its coach was forced to head east, the Esko-Carlton girls soccer team definitely didn't let its game go south. Stunned after learning that coach Dave Hill was sent back to Wales due to an invalid work visa just before the season started, t...
Though its coach was forced to head east, the Esko-Carlton girls soccer team definitely didn't let its game go south.
Stunned after learning that coach Dave Hill was sent back to Wales due to an invalid work visa just before the season started, the Eskomos haven't let the problem affect their play.
Esko-Carlton (8-1-1) is ranked No. 1 among area schools and riding an amazing 604-minute scoreless streak heading into today's key game at Hermantown (9-1-2).
"Considering the circumstances, we've done the best we could,' said interim coach Jerry Maunu, who took over for Hill as practice began. "We told the girls, 'Things happen. We can dwell on the past or look forward to the future. We can still have a successful season.' '
That was the Eskomos' motto last season when the program qualified for its first Minnesota Class A tournament despite an 11-7-1 record. That outcome was so unexpected that Hill, a professional coach from Wales in his first season at Esko-Carlton, already had scheduled a flight home and his work visa was set to expire after the Section 7A final. Maunu coached the team in a 4-0 state quarterfinal loss to Mahtomedi.
But nobody realized that Hill wouldn't make it back. After he flew to the United States this summer, he was sent back across the Atlantic due to a paperwork snafu.
"His work visa wasn't in correct order,' Maunu said. "When he arrived, he had to go back and take care of it.'
That was a process that would have taken too long to correct, Maunu said, so he accepted to take Hill's place. Players recruited Nicki Sullivan, a guidance counselor at Lincoln High School in Esko who had college playing experience, to become the assistant coach.
"The seniors were a little nervous about it because the coaches didn't have very much experience coaching, but they are doing very well,' senior midfielder Jessica Bergstedt said.
"It was a bit of a shock,' goalie Amanda Norbie, a senior from Carlton, said about Hill's departure. "We expected him to come and coach us this season.'
Norbie's presence has been enough to overcome any setbacks. She has posted eight shutouts in nine games and owns a minuscule 0.33 goals-against average.
"Our defense is huge,' sophomore midfielder Kelli Rengo said. "The ball hardly ever gets past one person, but if it does there's always somebody else backing them up.'
A strong defense has been needed because no one has scored more than three goals for the Eskomos this season. Allisa Stainbrook is the top point-getter with three goals and three assists.
"The defense is definitely the heart of our team,' Bergstedt said.
The Eskomos haven't allowed a goal since the first half of a 3-1 loss to Cloquet on Aug. 29. That streak reaches a full month today, but don't tell the player most responsible for keeping it intact.
"We really don't talk about it,' Norbie said. "We don't want to jinx the next game.'
Believe it or not, the fall playoff season already is under way.
Wisconsin girls golf regionals were held Wednesday as Northwestern was among the teams qualifying for Division 2 sectional play next week.
The Tigers placed second to Hayward at Spooner Golf Club with a 381 team score. Northwestern's Katie Pearson shot an 84, finishing third individually behind Hayward's Kelsie Passolt (77) and Michelle Narveson (83).
The sectional meet is Oct. 4 at Pheasant Hills Golf Club, hosted by Baldwin-Woodville. The state meet is Oct. 9-10 at University Ridge in Madison.
RICK WEEGMAN covers prep sports for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at email@example.com