With school out and the sun shining, the Lakeland girls soccer team had ideas of advancing in its sectional bracket on June 6.

The Thunderbirds hosted Medford in the WIAA Division Three Sectional Semifinals at River Valley Bank Field. Medford snuck out with a 2-0 win.

This game was bound to be close after the two teams tied earlier in the year. This time around, though, there had to be one team to move on.

First half

The first half was nearly even. Right away Lakeland saw some opportunities with Abby Parris running down the field in the second minute. Later, Olivia Melka created the game’s first corner kick.

“Our theory was to try to send it up to Abby,” coach Stephanie Hartzheim said. “She could take the defense one-on-one.”

The Raiders came back down and took a shot on goal themselves, saved by starting goalie Erika Rein for the Thunderbirds.

In the 11th minute, a nice series of passing from Elaina Irmick to Parris to Kristyn Dallman to Sophia Myshchyshyn nearly put the Thunderbirds on the board. It was thwarted off by the Raider’s defense.

In the 15th minute, it was Rein with a nice save. She was able to make a lot of tough saves throughout the game.

A crazy sequence of events started in the 32nd minute. The Raiders had a breakaway chance for a goal that was originally saved by Rein, but was knocked in on a rebound. Medford players, coaches and fans were celebrating, but it was called off because of offsides.

The game went to halftime tied at 0-0.

Second half

Right away in the second half, Parris had a breakaway that just missed the goal at the 46th minute.  

Four minutes later, Myshchyshyn had a beautiful pass to set up Parris who hit the top post. Parris was great all day at giving the Thunderbirds’ offense life.

“(Parris) did a nice job creating that space and outrunning their defenders,” Hartzheim said. “She did all she could up top.”

The Raiders took all the momentum after that. Another goal was called off because of offsides again at the 53rd minute. 

Then, Rein made another terrific save with a lot of traffic in front of her. The Raiders were knocking at the door and it was only a matter of time before they got one in.

The defining moment came in the 55th minute when the Thunderbirds had a penalty close to the box. The Raiders had a free kick taken by Meredith Seidel, who shot it over the Thunderbirds wall of defense and over the arms of Rein and into the goal. It was 1-0 Medford.

“Communicating, working together, figuring out who needs to be where is something that we need to work on for next year,” Hartzheim said.

Three minutes later, the Thunderbirds had a direct kick of their own by Myshchyshyn, but was saved by the Raider’s goalkeeper Kamry Albrecht.

In the 64th minute, Medford took a corner kick which landed perfectly in the Thunderbirds box and was punched in by Olivia Felix. It was 2-0 Raiders with the Thunderbirds looking for an answer.

There were other opportunities for Medford to score, but the speed of Dallman and Jenna Whitman made sure that didn’t happen. Along with defenders KT Tharman and Irmick, they were chasing down balls all game.

“They worked really hard. They will try to outrun anyone they can, but we weren’t connecting those passes and then there goes the ball just sending over our heads and we’re chasing it down,”?Hartzheim said.

Parris was the Thunderbirds’ only source of offense. Again she hit the top post in the 79th minute. The Raiders’ defense did a nice job of forcing her to the corner, causing her to try to angle it towards the goal or to her teammates. “(Parris) got sent to the corner with the ball and had to cross it in so she didn’t have that direct shot,” Hartzheim said.

Rein made another great save in the 81st minute to keep the lead where it was at. She finished with 12 saves. 

“Erika did a nice job, but not knowing all of her positioning and trying to train her quickly in two weeks is not always the easiest,” Hartzheim said.

A Lakeland corner kick was the last play of the game with Medford taking the win and advancing to play the winner of Rice Lake and Ashland.

For Lakeland, it is the end of the road. It is the end of a season that saw lots of growth, fun and tough soccer by the Thunderbirds.

Even with the score not going their way, these Thunderbirds will sure be back, aiming to soar farther than they’ve ever gone before.

Brett LaBore may be reached at brett@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.