Lakeville North's Olivia Bruce (left) tried to score on a corner kick as Burnsville's Abby Soderholm protected the net during the teams' soccer match Tuesday at the Metrodome. Photo: Jerry Holt * firstname.lastname@example.org
A freshman helped mend two years of heartbreak for the Lakeville North upperclassmen on Tuesday afternoon at the Metrodome. Freshman forward Olivia Bruce tapped in the only goal during the Class 2A girls’ soccer state semifinal for a 1-0 victory over top-seeded Burnsville.
The winner was scored with 6 minutes, seconds left to break 73-plus minutes of scoreless play. A Panthers’ corner kick dropped into a tangled group of players before popping out in front of Bruce.
Burnsville goalkeeper Darby Lofthus was tied up in the scramble and Bruce had an open shot.
“It almost felt like slow motion watching, and Olivia happened to be there on the end and just put it in. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve experienced,” Lakeville North senior midfielder Kendall Naatjes said.
“A lot of us have been here [to the state semifinals] two or three times already. … We needed to get to the championship. We’ve had too many semifinal losses. It means so much to all of us, especially the seniors because we finally got our goal that we’ve been working for, for many years.”
Naatjes was at the center of the corner kick scramble and most of Tuesday’s plays around the net. She and Alexis Tousignant bodied up on Lofthus as they jumped for the loose ball and got enough foot on it to find Bruce.
Sixteen Lakeville North upperclassmen experienced defeat in back-to-back state semifinal appearances. Instead of choosing to forget about the letdowns, the group let it drive this season’s effort.
The No. 4-seeded Panthers (15-2-3) lost to Burnsville 2-1 during the regular season.
“Finally got that [semifinal] win on the third try,” Lakeville North coach Bulut Ozturk said. “We knew one goal would win it. And our freshman stepped up for our seniors.”
Burnsville (17-1-3) struggled to create scoring opportunities against a Panthers defense that has a six-game shutout streak.
Lofthus kept her team in the game with aggressive goalkeeping. She made several quality saves by rushing the Panthers’ attack. However, her lone slip up led to the game’s only goal. She attempted to punch away the free kick that set up the winner, but the ball fell to the ground.
“We played to their strength and didn’t find many opportunities,” Burnsville midfielder Abby Soderholm said. “We gave up too many corner kicks. We gave away too many chances.”