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Denfeld boys oust Hibbing 4-1, advance to semis

Goals are traditionally hard to come by in soccer, but the days of scoreless ties are long gone because it's playoff time. The balance displayed all season by Lake Superior Conference boys' soccer teams has spilled over, predictably, to the Secti...

Goals are traditionally hard to come by in soccer, but the days of scoreless ties are long gone because it's playoff time.
The balance displayed all season by Lake Superior Conference boys' soccer teams has spilled over, predictably, to the Section 7A tournament, where a wild Saturday first round sent four survivors into Tuesday's semifinals. All four, naturally, had high hopes to advance and win the final and reach the state tournament, as did both Duluth East's girls' and boys' teams, who faced semifinals in Section 7AA at PSS on Tuesday.
Denfeld, the top seed in 7A, won forcibly in a 4-1 victory over Hibbing in one of four games at Public Schools Stadium Saturday, and had to face archrival Duluth Central in Tuesday's semifinal at PSS. Proctor, the preseason favorite, struggled before finding itself late in the season, and the Rails looked potent as they hit the road to play at Grand Rapids in the other semifinals.
The Hunters, with a strong and creative attack, got goals from four different players, along with their usual solid defense ahead of Matt Smith's goalkeeping to eliminate Hibbing in the light but persistent drizzle Saturday at PSS.
A couple of big plays staked Denfeld to a 2-0 lead in the first half.
Nick Polzin, one of the area's most dangerous scorers, was part of a rush for a loose ball coming at the Hibbing goal at 14:14. Hibbing goalie Nathan Potter came out for it, but in the congestion, he went down and the ball got loose behind him. Polzin was the closest to it, and hammered it into the empty net.
Four minutes later, Peter Wagner broke up the right side for a long pass from Kyle Chiaverni. Potter came out to cut down the angle, and Kevin Trenbeth cut across hard, hoping his feet-first slide might block Wagner's shot. Instead, Wagner blasted a shot just past Trenbeth, and past the falling goalkeeper and into the net for a 2-0 lead.
Trenbeth hit the artificial turf hard, grimacing in pain. It wasn't just that he knew Wagner's blast had cleared him and found the net; Trenbeth had wrenched his knee and had to be helped to the sideline. He returned to play in the second half, however, after Alex Wolff's goal cut the score to 2-1 and gave the Bluejackets new life for the second half.
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But 2:17 into the second half, Josh Ballard sent a high crossing pass out in front of the Hibbing goal. Polzin went up and blocked the pass with his chest. When the ball caromed away, Joel Olson was first to it and scored with a quick shot into the lower right.
When it ended up 4-1, Potter had 11 saves in a busy game, while Matt Smith needed only three. The Hunters' victory sent them back to PSS Tuesday with a 13-3-2 overall record to face a Central team that started strong, but has been inconsistent over the last few weeks and needed to win its first playoff game, 2-0 over Hermantown, to reach the .500 mark at 8-8-1.
Proctor, meanwhile, got past Cloquet-Esko-Carlton 3-0 and took an 8-6-4 record to Grand Rapids (10-5), which beat Two Harbors 3-0 Saturday.
In girls 7A play, Denfeld also won, getting past a tough Esko-Carlton 2-1 Saturday at PSS, and the Hunters put their 12-3-3 against Hermantown in Tuesday's 4 p.m. game at PSS. Hermantown is 11-7-1, but escaped a true threat when the Hawks battled Marshall to a 2-2 standoff, then won 3-2 by capturing a 5-4 shootout.
Cloquet, the tournament favorite at 15-2-1, slipped past Hibbing 1-0 in first-round play, and faced Proctor (9-10) in Tuesday's semifinal at Cloquet. Championship games for both boys and girls will be Friday at PSS, with the girls title decided at 5 p.m. and the boys at 7 p.m.
Tuesday's full slate included 7AA semifinal games in both boys and girls, too. Duluth East, which is the only Northland team in 7AA, advanced to Tuesday's round by both its boys and highly ranked girls teams beating Cambridge-Isanti. The boys squeaked by 1-0, to rise to a 12-6-1 record.
The Greyhound girls whipped Cambridge 4-0 and take a 16-2-1 record into the semifinals. Both East teams play at PSS, and if they win, they advance to the 7AA finals, which will be Thursday at the National Sports Center in Blaine.

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