River Falls’ Kraly Walker defends Hudson’s Stella Duffee

River Falls’ Kraly Walker defends Hudson’s Stella Duffee along the sidelines as Duffee chases a long pass in the second half of the Raiders’ 2-1 victory over the Wildcats Tuesday night, June 1, in River Falls. Bob Burrows / Star-Observer photo

Hudson girls’ soccer coach Steve Sollom isn’t sure what the Raiders will put on their conference championship t-shirts this season.

“Back-to-blank-to-back?” he quipped.

The Raiders clinched the 2021 Big Rivers Conference championship with a hard-fought 2-1 victory over River Falls Tuesday night, June 1 in River Falls. They didn’t get a chance to defend their 2019 title last year after the season was cancelled due to the pandemic. But Sollom said…

“You know we would have had a good team last year so you never know what would have happened. We lost a year, but I guess anytime you win conference, whether you had a season or not, is nice. So we’ll take it.”

Tuesday night’s game was a sharp contrast to the first meeting this season between the Raiders and Wildcats, a 7-0 Hudson win May 11 in Hudson. This time it was the Wildcats who struck first when Lindsey Szymanski scored off an assist from Olivia Bell 5 minutes, 23 seconds into the game. It was the first time the Raiders have trailed in a conference game all season.

“They came down and got one and I think we sort of panicked for a little while,” Sollom said. “We were on our heels for a good portion there for the next 10-15 minutes.”

The Raiders eventually got the equalizer in the 17th minute on an unassisted goal by Avery Murdzek, before Stella Duffee netted the eventual game-winner on an unassisted breakaway in the final minute of the half.

“That one right at the end of the half was huge,” Sollom said.

Both teams had chances in the second half but River Falls goalkeeper Riley Nesbitt stopped a Lauren Chukel penalty shot and tipped a Murdzek shot over the crossbar while Hudson keeper Abby Carlson denied some late Wildcat opportunities.

River Falls’ coach Charles Conley said the Wildcats were prepared for a battle against their biggest conference rivals.

“But we needed to score more than one,” he said. “And, gosh, we were really close. And then to go 0-0 in the second half, it was really kind of back and forth. We just have to continue to get better.”

The Wildcats, now 8-3-1 overall, 5-3-1 in the BRC, will wrap up the regular season Thursday, June 3, at Rice Lake while the Raiders will take a record of 11-0 overall, 9-0 in BRC play, into their season finale Saturday, June 5 at home against Eau Claire Memorial.

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