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Proctor scores early, holds off Duluth Denfeld

The last time Proctor played at Public Schools Stadium, in the Lake Superior Conference's preseason high school girls soccer jamboree, temperatures hovered in the upper 80s and the Rails were trying to establish an identity.

Taylor Olson and Meggan Burud
Duluth Denfeld's Taylor Olson (left) and Proctor's Meggan Burud compete for the ball during a game at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

The last time Proctor played at Public Schools Stadium, in the Lake Superior Conference's preseason high school girls soccer jamboree, temperatures hovered in the upper 80s and the Rails were trying to establish an identity.

Back at PSS on Thursday night, this time amid cold, blustery conditions that portended the season's stretch run, Proctor showed it's a resilient, versatile team ready to make some noise in the Section 7A playoffs.

"It was completely different," Rails goalkeeper Kassie Haedtke said of her team's victorious return to PSS, a 1-0 win over Duluth Denfeld. "I remember just dying in the net because I had my huge goalie jersey on. And this game I was freezing, and jumping up and down the whole time."

Haedtke battled the elements and Denfeld's persistent attack with equal aplomb. When she wasn't jumping to stay warm, the senior made 12 saves to fluster the Hunters, who made a habit of hitting posts and cross bars. Denfeld nearly evened the game at a goal apiece in the 60th minute when Haedtke bobbled a drive before corralling it.

It was emblematic of the pesky Hunters, who had numerous second-half chances despite Proctor's pack-it-tight defense aimed at preserving a one-goal advantage.

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"Denfeld came out strong and played a great second half against us," Rails coach Jen Harnell said. "I think we continued to want to play offensive in the second half, but we did try to protect the net a little bit more and play a little more conservatively."

Proctor's Lexie DeWall made that possible when she converted on a right-footed drive in the 22nd minute. It was a nice dose of redemption for the sophomore midfielder, who drilled the cross bar a minute before notching what turned out to be the game-winner.

"I felt frustrated, but I just had to keep trying, and I knew eventually it was going to go," DeWall said. "It felt amazing to see it go past the goalie."

Thursday's match, which at times turned into a back-and-forth track meet, was a showdown between streaking teams. The Hunters (7-3-1 overall, 3-1-1 in the LSC) were 6-1-1 in their past seven games coming in and hadn't allowed a goal in their previous three. The Rails (6-5, 2-2-0), meanwhile, improved to 5-1 in their past six, and were on a goal-scoring binge before using a bend-but-don't-break defense to topple Denfeld and earn revenge for the teams' first meeting, a 3-1 Hunters win in Proctor.

"It definitely gives us a boost because last time on our home field we lost, and this time we beat them on their homecoming week and at their own field," DeWall said.

Both Denfeld and Proctor appear to be chasing LSC frontrunner Hermantown as the postseason approaches. The Hawks are 10-1-1, though their lone blemish in the LSC, a 1-1 tie, came at the hands of the Hunters.

Proctor gets the next crack as the Rails host Hermantown on Monday in what will be another measuring-stick match.

Denfeld must regroup in time for Saturday's home date with North Branch. Hunters coach Ron Weber isn't concerned about Thursday's setback, saying his team played a solid game despite being shut out.

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"That's the way the game goes sometimes," Weber said. "I think we played well the second half, but we just couldn't get one to go in. I think we've been playing well. We're consistent, just got a little bit outplayed today."

Proctor 1-0--1

Duluth Denfeld 0-0--0

First half -- 1. Lexie DeWall, 22nd minute.

Second half -- No scoring.

Saves -- Kassie Haedtke, P, 12; Megan Lazzaro, DD, 5.

Brianna Westendorf and Emily Fleissner
Proctor's Brianna Westendorf (left) and Duluth Denfeld's Emily Fleissner compete for the ball during a game at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013. (Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com)

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