Prep girls soccer: Grace Karakas OT goal lifts East past Denfeld
Hunter goalie Cayley Larsen stopped 20 shots and held the Greyhounds scoreless for more than 80 minutes.
DULUTH — It took more than the full 80 minutes, but Duluth East junior Grace Karakas scored in the 83rd minute to break a scoreless tie and give the Greyhounds a 1-0 overtime victory over Duluth Denfeld Thursday at Public Schools Stadium.
Karakas had several chances to score in regulation, but couldn’t get a shot past Hunter goalkeeper Cayley Larsen. Larsen stopped 20 shots to keep Denfeld in the game against their crosstown rivals.
Karakas said the Hunters were playing up on her and she tried to cut back through the defense to get a shot.
“I just shot it low and I think another player — like one of their players — tipped it and it went right under her,” Karakas said.
Larsen confirmed that the ball did indeed ricochet off a Denfeld player before it went in the goal.
“It was just a small tip, I couldn’t see where it impacted on my player,” she said. “But it tipped off her and I was just a little far off and it just went under me.”
Karakas has emerged as the Greyhounds’ top scoring threat this season with four goals and six assists so far. Duluth East (3-6-1) has played a difficult schedule so far, facing Andover, Woodbury, Stillwater and St. Francis, all teams ranked in the top 10 in Minnesota.
Greyhounds coach Steve Polkowski said, with 13 players graduating off the 2021 squad, Karakas has “picked up the offense” with her speed. Karakas was a varsity player last season, but she’s seen her minutes increase drastically. Currently, she’s on the field for 70 minutes or more for East.
“Grace’s speed is what sets her apart,” Polkowski said. “It’s one thing to be fast, it’s another to be fast on the ball and that’s one thing she’s really worked on. Her first touches improved incredibly from last year and then her ability to dribble at people at speed — there’s not much of a difference between Grace running without the ball and running with the ball, which is not an easy thing to learn.”
Junior defender Aria Bauers was impressed with not just with her teammate’s speed, but her tenacious, never-give-up playing style is key too.
“She just goes at 100%,” Bauers said. “She doesn’t let down even when it looks like they’re going to win the ball. I feel like that’s what’s making her do so well is in that millisecond, she’s able to win the ball and go.”
Denfeld coach Leah Hamm was impressed with her team’s performance even in the loss.
“East has a strong attack and we knew that, so that was part of our game plan,” Hamm said. “Our back line had to come ready to play and they did that. They covered for each other, they stepped to the ball and they were aggressive. They were excited and ready to be here. This is a huge game and they want it so bad…They played with heart and worked together.”
Hamm also couldn’t say enough good things about the Hunters’ sophomore goalkeeper. Larsen has three shutouts — including a 1-0 win over North Branch where Larsen stopped three penalty kickss — and nearly had a fourth against the Greyhounds.
“Cayley’s awesome — she plays older than she is,” Hamm said. “She is our only keeper on varsity, so there’s a lot of pressure on her and she has handled that really, really well all year. She gets in her own head a little bit knowing that she’s the only one and in big games like this, she’s going to be the one in net. But she’s done such an awesome job of calming her nerves and being that backline for her teammates.”
East will next host Roseville at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Duluth Denfeld (5-5) will play at Hibbing/Chisholm at 11:30 p.m. Saturday.