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First-half scoring blitz pushes Raiders past Northland Pines, 3-1

First-half scoring blitz pushes Raiders past Northland Pines, 3-1 First-half scoring blitz pushes Raiders past Northland Pines, 3-1

Zach Rudolph scored twice and added an assist, while Quinton Tlusty capably filled the role of emergency goal keeper in Medford’s second straight win, a 3-1 victory at Northland Pines Thursday in Eagle River.

Medford scored all three of its goals in the first half to build a comfortable lead –– a lead that head coach Nate Bilodeau said probably got too comfortable. Nonetheless it was a needed win as the Raiders aim to build momentum for the second half of the fall season.

Medford completed the first half of Great Northern Conference play 2-3 and sits at 4-4-1 overall heading into Rhinelander tonight, Thursday, for a 7 p.m. game that starts the second round of league play. Northland Pines also went 2-3 in the first round of GNC play.

“The first half was phenomenal,” Bilodeau said. “We played really well, played great soccer. We were up 3-0 at halftime. I think then there was a sense of complacency on the team that well, we’re up three goals we don’t have to try as hard. Well Pines tried extra hard because they were down by three goals. We came out real flat, they scored on us in the first 10 minutes of the second half.”

Fortunately, that was the only goal the Eagles scored against Medford defense. Tlusty filled in for the quarantined Jake Dassow in goal and nearly notched a shutout.

“He did a phenomenal job,” Bilodeau said. “They could’ve scored three or four goals on us, but Quinton stepped up and played keeper for us and did a great job. He loves it. Occasionally in practice we’ll throw him in there just so he can kind of stay fresh as a keeper and keep shots coming his way. He was officially, unofficially our backup goalie in case Jake ever got hurt or whatever.”

At the other end of the field, the star of the day was Rudolph, the team’s junior co-captain who Bilodeau said has raised his play in recent games.

He scored the first two goals of the game with the first deflecting off an Eagle defender and bouncing past goal keeper Patrick Roth. He pounced on a mistake and converted the second one.

“He’s really stepping up,” Bilodeau said of Rudolph. “Between the last two matches, Antigo and Pines, he’s got twice as many shots as the entire team does combined. He’s not afraid to shoot. (Thursday) night, the first goal we scored, it wasn’t a great shot. He shot it, but it found its way to the back of the net.

“The second goal Zach scored, the keeper tried to throw it out instead of kicking it and he threw it right through the middle and Zach just picked it up,” he added. “The keeper was way off his line because he was staying at the top of the 18 after throwing the ball out. Zach just chipped it right over the top of him and it found its way to the back of the net. It’s just being aware.”

Senior Gabe Felix collected his first goal of the year to give Medford its 3-0 halftime lead. Rudolph sent a header off a throw-in to an unmarked Felix at the post who easily tapped it in.

The lesson of the night, however, was to keep the effort and intensity up for a full game, something the Raiders will need to do if they hope to avenge losses to Rhinelander, Lakeland and Mosinee in upcoming rematches.

“I think it’s natural for players to do that,” Bilodeau said. “You get a big lead and then you take it down a notch. But that’s where soccer is a momentum game and the other team comes out swinging. They have the momentum because they want to win and we’re just lolly gagging.”

After tonight’s game with the Hodags, the Raiders will head to Lakeland on Sept. 30 for a 7 p.m. kickoff. Lakeland is 10-0-2 overall and, at 5-0 in the GNC, holds a two-game lead over Rhinelander and Mosinee in the league standings.

“Zach said it best,” Bilodeau sad. “He said, ‘you know what coach we’re starting to have fun again.’ I think when they’re having fun, they play a lot better, they play a lot looser. It’s not so intense and so serious. I think having two wins helps with that. That’s a good momentum to carry into the second half of the season.”

Quinton Tlusty