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Raiders get their revenge with two second-half goals

Raiders get their revenge with two second-half goals Raiders get their revenge with two second-half goals


The first half of Thursday’s WIAA Division 2 soccer sectional semifinal was exciting to watch with end-to-end action and scoring opportunities for both Medford and Rhinelander, though neither team found the net in those 45 minutes.

The Raiders, however, prefer a slower, more methodical pace to the game, which they did a better job of establishing in the second half and it produced the first sectional win in the program’s 12-year history.

The 2-0 win sent Medford to Saturday’s sectional final against Rice Lake, which it won in a sudden-death shootout at Raider Field.

The win against top-seeded Rhinelander settled a grudge the second-seeded Raiders held from the regular season when they lost a 1-0 game to the Hodags they felt they let get away and they didn’t see the Hodags’ starters when they met in the rematch on Oct. 15.

“It means a lot because we lost to them at the beginning of the year,” senior defender Ty Baker said. “Then they brought their JV (to the second game).”

“That hurt a little bit,” senior goal keeper Brady Hupf said.

“To come here and beat them 2-0 was pretty good,” Baker added. “We also took second to them, they took first in conference, so we kind of showed them.”

Medford head coach Nate Bilodeau said the key to Thursday’s win was being able to weather the storm in the first half, when Rhinelander caught the Raiders off-guard somewhat by trying to push the tempo.

“It’s just that that’s not our game or our style of play,” Bilodeau said. “That’s not the way I coach these boys. It’s not

what they’re used to. I’m not saying we’re not a fast team, but we don’t play long ball. It’s just a different style of play and we weren’t prepared for that because, obviously, the first two times we played Rhinelander, they didn’t play like that.”

Rhinelander outshot Medford 14-9 in the first half, and both teams could claim to have had excellent chances.

Hodag Braden Mork just missed the upper left corner five minutes in. A Zach Rudolph pass to Raider striker Gage Neubauer 4:30 later resulted in a breakaway that was barely broken up by Hodag Alexx Huff. Five minutes later, Neubauer had a point-blank shot off a Kale Klussendorf centering pass that Rhinelander keeper Gavin Ostermann somehow kick saved.

The Hodags quickly reversed things off of that save and Hupf was just able to break up a pass from Rhinelander’s Shane Petrick to Beau Howard right in front of the net.

Hupf, after a few games of relative inactivity due to the Medford’s dominance, had 14 saves in the win. Though there were a couple of scares, he was calm and in command in the box. “I’d only been getting one or two saves and now I got a game where there were 10 or 15 saves,” Hupf said. “It was a fun game. A lot of the shots were far out and, thanks to my defense, guys were blocking them or getting a tip on them, slowing the ball down a lot. That just helped. It’s a little nerve wracking on those through balls and they’re coming right at you, but you just have to make a quick decision.” “Best keeper in the GNC, statistically and in my heart,” Bilodeau said. “This is the best I’ve ever seen Brady. I’ve only been here three years, but by leaps and bounds he’s better than any year. You can’t even compare. He’s just got the right mentality this year. He’s focused, he’s got the drive, the desire, the want to win. It’s awesome to see that.” The Hodags produced several waves of pressure in the last eight minutes of the half with no luck. A corner kick by Raider Owen Wipf was corralled by Ostermann with 1:45 left, keeping the game 0-0 at halftime. Hupf easily grabbed a corner kick by Rhinelander’s Hugh Wiese 48:10 into the second half, then moments later, the Raiders finally broke through at 49:33. Colton Gowey tried to hit Aaron Schield with a pass at midfi eld. Schield eventually won control of the ball and sent a through ball to his left that hit Klussendorf in stride for a oneon- one shot against Ostermann, which he won for a 1-0 lead.

“It was like breaking the ice,” Baker said of getting the first goal. “After that, we just started rolling.”

“In a game like that, especially that it’s post-season now and every game is win or go home, those are the momentum shifters,” Bilodeau said. “You get one goal and all of sudden things start to sway your way. It’s important not to let down. A one-goal lead in a game like this is certainly not enough. That’s what I told the guys. We scored the goal and there was a huge sigh of relief when you get that lead. But it’s important to never back down from that and just continue to play our game.”

Medford’s next chance came at 60:25 when Ostermann made a sliding save on a Gowey shot that came off a Baker pass. At 62:10, Wipf took a direct kick from 28 yards and aimed for the left post. Ostermann had to make a diving save on that one.

At 66:49, Ostermann had no shot, however, at stopping a header by Rudolph off Schield’s corner kick from the right side of Medford’s formation that doubled the lead and, with the way Medford’s defense was playing, ended Rhinelander’s hopes.

“That’s something we focus on in practice, throw-ins and corners because those are scoring opportunities that I think are often taken for granted,” Bilodeau said. “We have guys on the field that can throw the ball from the sideline like a corner kick. So take it and treat it like it is a corner kick. Zach Rudolph, he practices that. He’s scored three or four goals this year just off his head. That’s a weapon absolutely.”

From there, Medford closed out its sixth straight shutout and seventh overall in 13 outings, though Hupf did have to make one diving save with just under six minutes left on a shot by Wiese. The defense, which was a question mark coming into the year due to inexperience, has certainly turned into a strength behind Baker, Brayden Machon, Vincent Seidel, Sam Blair, Caden Tessmann and Silas Wipf to name a few.

“It’s been really good,” Baker said. “In the first few games it was kinda iffy, but then once we got our four main guys down it was pretty good and then we just started working from there.”

“Yeah, it was mainly just getting our four guys and building off of that,” Hupf said. “We started throwing Silas back there and that’s working really well.”

“It’s leaps and bounds different than what it was in the beginning of the season,” Bilodeau said. “That’s why we’re so grateful to have a season. I knew this season was going to be a learning year for us with just the youth on our team. To see the growth, the physicality and the mental awareness from the back four, it’s just huge. They feed off Ty. We really lean on Ty to be a leader on the defense back there. They feed off of him, he’s a great leader, he shows them how to do it, he’s talking to them out there, which is going to carry into next year for us.”

After a brief celebration on the field, Medford’s attention quickly shifted to Rice Lake, a program that has experienced a lot of post-season success since 2014.

“The thing with Rice Lake is you just know the history,” Bilodeau said. “We don’t get a look at them in the regular season. Home-field advantage is certainly a huge win for us. We only have one day to prepare, which is short notice, but we don’t prepare any differently. We try really hard to not culture shock the guys with something new. We stick to our game, just like we did tonight. First 45 minutes, guys put it behind you. We stuck with them, we played their game. Now it’s time to play our game. We did and we came out on top.”

Medford’s Brayden Machon knocks the soccer ball away from Rhinelander’s Beau Howard, breaking up a potential offensive push by the Hodags during the first half of Thursday’s sectional semifinal shutout win.MATT FREY/THE STAR NEWSMATT FREY/THE STAR NEWS