Soccer, a tale of opposites

By Bruce Karnick
Posted 9/24/23

The Raider boys (2-5) and girls (3-4) soccer teams started their seasons as opposites in the standings. The boys started off with a two-game win streak while the girls were beat in four straight …

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Soccer, a tale of opposites


The Raider boys (2-5) and girls (3-4) soccer teams started their seasons as opposites in the standings. The boys started off with a two-game win streak while the girls were beat in four straight contests. With a snap of the fingers, the streaks flipped, and the boys have lost five in a row while the girls won three.

The boys took a trip to Two Rivers on Sept. 11, falling 2-1 in the typical close battle with the Warriors.

Then on Sept. 13, they went to North St. Paul where Head Coach Jamie Swanson asked, “Would it be selfish to ask the boys to win this one for me?”

Of course, he was half laughing and half serious given he and this reporter went to school together. “Why?” I asked.

“Well, I have never won here,” he continued. “Not as a coach, or as a player, and I just really want to get a win here.”

Of course, the support of a coach and his team comes first so it was not selfish to ask that. He really wanted to win. With that conversation, there may have been some sneaky conversations with the boys trying the old “win one for the Gipper” motivational nudge. The captains were thankful for the information and the game was on.

The Raiders came out fighting hard. It looked to be working. The Raiders had multiple shots on goal in the first part of the game, but the Polar keeper was quick, and he did not allow anything. Then all of a sudden, it was 0-1 Polars. This was shaping up to be a long night for Hastings. Then, Ethan Schaack took a shot from about 30 yards out. The Polar keeper was caught off guard and the shot went in just off his fingertips. The Raiders tied it.

North St. Paul took the lead again, this time on their own fluke goal and it was 2-1 Polars. Shortly after, Brody Geib tied the game before halftime with a beautiful shot from the keeper’s right.

Both teams played a solid game shutting each other’s attacks down and keeping the play away from their respective goals. Unfortunately for the Gipper, North won the match 4-3 and sent the Raiders and Coach Swanson home with yet another loss in North St. Paul.

Sophomore Johnathon Braucks had his first start in goal against the Polars and his defense did all they could to protect him, but the Polars have a couple forwards with a lot of speed, which made the night a bit more difficult for him in goal.

Things did not get any better with their Sept. 16 game against Stillwater. 8-0 was the final of that one, which extended the losing streak to five.

The girls only had two games this week, a 2-1 win at Two Rivers and a blowout win at North St. Paul 15-0.

At North, the Raiders scored five goals in the first six minutes against a Polars team that looked like they did not want to be there. It was a tough game to watch, Hastings could have won that game 40-0 if they had put half the pressure on they did in the first six minutes.

Coach Paul Armstrong’s plan was, once Hastings scored five goals, then it was a minimum of five touches before they shot on the goal, and the shot could not actually be on the goal. It needed to be a cross pass and the scoring player needed to head the ball in. If they got to nine goals, then they were not going to shoot. At the half, the Polar coach spoke with Armstrong and told him to keep shooting and that they would not get any better from the Raiders playing keep away, so Armstrong reluctantly let the girls keep shooting.

“I know what it is like to lose by double digits, it is not fun,” said Armstrong. “My plan was to stop shooting, but their coach told me to keep going. Our girls did exactly what was asked of them.”

After the game, the girls felt bad running up the score, but Armstrong reassured them they did what they needed to, and they were respectful about the game. Not one Raider rubbed it in the opponent’s face. They did not celebrate the goals. The girls showed a lot of humility and understanding of a young opposing program.

What was the focus of Armstrong for the lesson in the game?

“Habits. Staying mentally engaged even when you don't have the ball, just putting yourself in the right position at all times for the what ifs for the bad bounces for everything,” he said. “Keep the intensity high. Again, we're trying to create habits, pressuring the ball, moving quickly, forward foot. All these things to just keep us growing as a team.”

The girls did a great job of staying focused, and defensively, the Hastings keepers might have seen three shots the entire game, so they really had to work hard to stay focused.

“We're on a three-game win streak right now over some very good teams. The intensity has been up our ball movement has been up. We're fixing things on the go, which has been outstanding. So yeah, it's been a great three games,” added Armstrong.

Up next for the Raiders, Tartan comes to town on Sept. 21. The girls have the early game at 5 p.m. followed by the boys at 7 p.m. Then the girls travel to Edina on Sept 23 for an 11 a.m. match before coming home to Richfield on Sept 25 to do the 5 p.m. start with the boys going at 7 p.m. The boys have no Saturday game, but both the boys and girls travel to Hill-Murray on Sept. 26 with the same 5p.m./7 p.m. schedule.