COLUMBUS — Standing 40 yards from the goal, Belleville/New Glarus sophomore midfielder Kirsten Krantz kept her head down and remained focused on the ball.
The wind whipped at her back and a cold rain continued to fall, pelting the players throughout Thursday night’s Capitol Conference girls soccer match between Belleville/New Glarus and Columbus.
Krantz, one of the Sugar River Raiders’ top scorers and point producers, knew this opportunity on a direct free kick could give her team some breathing room. She kicked the ball, looking to score.
With the wind behind her, Krantz thought she might have struck the ball too high and too long, but that wasn’t the case. Her long-range free kick curled into the top of the net — out of the reach of Columbus backup goaltender Aurora Toutant 43 minutes, 21 seconds into the match.
The goal, which followed shortly after sophomore forward Regyn Jelle’s opening score, gave the Raiders a two-goal lead just prior to halftime.
Sugar River, ranked eighth in Division 3 in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association poll, carried on for a 2-0 victory on Columbus’ parents’ night.
“I just try and relax, because if I’m all jittery I can’t aim right,” said Krantz, a Belleville student who has five goals and four assists this season. “I usually just try to look at the ball. I know where I want to kick it and look at the ball the whole time. I thought it was going over (the net) for a second, but it went in there.”
Raiders coach John Ziperski hoped his team could take advantage in the first half while playing with the wind.
“That was our hope when we picked the side,” said Ziperski, whose team advanced to the WIAA Division 3 state semifinals last season. “I didn’t know if it was going to get better or worse in the second half. So, we’ll take the wind when we can get it.
“I think we are still trying to figure out some things on offense. I have been a little frustrated with our team not stepping up or being accountable for some things we need to do. I think if we finish our easier opportunities, the game shifts quite a bit. But we are letting a lot of teams hang out with us for a long time and it turns out well for them.”
Sugar River (9-1-2, 3-0-0 Capitol Conference), which has been leading the league with Lodi, dominated possession. But the Raiders didn’t break through against the Cardinals (9-2-1, 1-2-0) until the 40-minute mark.
Jelle, off a pass from senior defender Julia McNamar, got free behind the Cardinals’ defense and scored against Toutant — who entered at 16:41 when starting goalie Samantha Menomin injured her wrist while blocking a shot.
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“That was a nice angled through-pass, catching her on the run,” Ziperski said. “I think Jelle did a good job placing it where she needed to.”
Gerald Jacobson, in his first season as Columbus’ coach, praised the foundation the previous staff built. He said he was pleased with how the Cardinals have played this season, including Thursday.
“Against Sugar River, they are always a very highly skilled team,” Jacobson said. “A lot of credit to their coach and their players. We know it’s going to be a difficult game and we try to bring our best for the game. I think we did well.”
Menomin, coach Jacobson’s daughter, returned to play in the scoreless second half and finished with six saves.
The Raiders were without senior midfielder Sydney Gentilli, whom Ziperski said is out for the season due to a knee injury, and sophomore forward Jaylynn Benson, sidelined indefinitely by injury.
Sugar River’s defense stymied Columbus’ top threats, including midfielders Abbi Dixon and Ashley Olson.
Raiders senior goalie Rachael Heittola needed to make only one stop and backup Morgan Thompson had one save, playing the final 19:45.
Belleville/New Glarus 2 0 — 2
Columbus 0 0 — 0
First half: Jelle (McNamar), 40:00; Krantz, 43:21.
Saves: BNG (Heittola 1, Thompson 1) 2, C (Menomin 6, Toutant 2) 8.