Jun. 9—Up just one goal on Chippewa Falls at the half of Tuesday’s regional semifinal, Eau Claire Memorial girls soccer coach Olivia Hanson preached a core value to her players — be patient, and good things will come.
“We had to be patient,” Hanson said. “Initially we were trying to force wide and we were trying to take too many dribbles in the middle. We learned in the second half patience is key. Shooting from outside definitely ended up working for us.”
Indeed it did. The Old Abes scored four times in the second half, once on a header and three times on well-struck shots, to avoid a nerve-wracking ending and to advance to the regional finals with a 5-0 triumph.
“This is redemption time,” Hanson said. “After not having a season (last year) we kind of have that fire with us. We want to go to state. This team I truly believe has that capability.”
Greta Steines scored the eventual game-winning goal for the Old Abes in the 17th minute, firing off a strike from the left side of the box. Elli Hudacek gave the team more cushion in the 48th, heading home a perfect cross from Tessa Ross while right near the goal line.
Then came an impressive display of shooting, with Shelby Wille and Molly Hower following in Steines’ footsteps. Hower took a laser shot from the right side that went across the box to the left corner in the 58th minute, then Wille rounded out the offense with a pair. She effortlessly shot across her body for a goal to the left corner in the 69th minute, then blasted a shot from the left side in the 87th.
“I was just in the right place for my teammates,” Wille said. “They were getting the ball open, finding areas. And I guess I just was trying to find the space so they’d have someone to pass to. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Hanson said the team has been working on shot placement, again emphasizing patience.
“Definitely in placement I think that we’ve improved,” Wille said. “And staying calm on the ball, picking up our heads to see where the best option is.”
In the end, some of Chi-Hi’s absences also came back to bite it. The Cardinals were down five starters due to injury or pre-planned vacations, with the entire bench made up of players called up from the JV level. Inexperience allowed Memorial to get in more dangerous positions.
Among the players out was goalkeeper Mallory Colle, meaning defender Ella Ausman slid back between the pipes with just two games of goalkeeper experience under her belt. She did an admirable job considering, showing off some natural instincts. She made 34 saves to keep Chippewa Falls in it.
“She did a commendable job today,” Chippewa Falls coach Al Ali said. “She made a number of really nice saves. She beat some girls to balls and saved a number of goals that could have made the score a lot worse.”
Chippewa Falls’ season ends at 5-9-1, a major improvement from the team’s winless campaign in 2019. Ali said the group turned some heads as it looks to establish a winning culture.
“They battled,” Ali said. “That was kind of the theme of the year. It didn’t matter what was thrown at them. I don’t think I saw these girls shut down and try to go into cruise control the rest of the game. They kept battling to fight back and try to get a goal or something at least, something that they could build on for the next week.”
Eau Claire Memorial will play the winner of Eau Claire North and Wisconsin Rapids Lincoln on Saturday. Game time is yet to be determined.
Eau Claire Memorial 5, Chippewa Falls 0
CF 0 0 — 0
ECM 1 4 — 5
Goals: 1, Memorial, Greta Steines (Abigail Wall), 17th minute; 2, Memorial, Elli Hudacek (Tessa Ross), 48th minute; 3, Memorial, Molly Hower (Mikkyla Worthing), 58th minute; 4, Memorial, Shelby Wille (Steines), 69th minute; 5, Memorial, Wille, 87th minute. Shots: Chippewa Falls 3, Memorial 45. Saves: Ella Ausman (Chippewa Falls) 34, Addison Fritz (Memorial) 3.