The past two months were nothing less than historic for the Hastings Raiders girls’ soccer team. They put together one of the program’s best seasons in 30 years and could continue to set records heading into the section playoffs.
During their final week of the regular season, the Raiders beat North St. Paul and Henry Sibley and lost at Hill-Murray. The finish the regular season with an overall record of 12-2-2 and a third-place finish in the Metro East Conference with a record of 4-1-2.
Athletic director Trent Hanson was able to dig up some context for how good this Raiders’ team has been. With the win over Henry Sibley on Saturday, Oct. 5, the 2019 Hastings girls now have the most wins of any Raider girls’ soccer team in the last 30 years, and the best win percentage. Only two other teams -- from 1993 and 1998 - have had double-digit wins in that time period. This is also Hastings’ first winning season since 1998, over which they have competed in three different conferences (the St. Paul Suburban, Suburban East and Metro East). Two of their best three records during that span before this season came under head coach Scott Meier. Senior co-captain Ari Green, who has been on varsity for several years now, said she knew this team could be really good but maybe not just how good.
“I knew this year we could do some great things, we have some really good players but it was all up to us to try and make it happen,” she said. “I didn’t expect to have done what we have but it shows the work we have put in and it’s super exciting to see that hard work pays off.”
On to sections
Meier said in the middle two weeks ago the given the Raiders’ tough section, he hopes to receive and top four seed in Section 3AA. According to the most recent QRF rankings, Hastings is third in the section behind Rosemount and newcomer Lakeville North and just ahead of Eagan. Should that hold, the Raiders would hold their first home section playoffs match in 20 years. Green said that’s the team’s goal as well.
“We are hoping to get a seed that is four or higher,” she said. “We have a pretty strong section though so we will have to wait and see if we can get a high seed. There is a chance we play Park again which will be a good match because we have always been back and forth with them throughout the years.”
History was indeed made as the Raiders earned the No. 3 seed in Section 3AA and will host their first home section playoff game in 20 years on Tuesday, Oct. 8. Should they beat Eastview, it would also be their first section playoffs win in 20 years. Meier was also named the Section 3AA Coach of the Year.
Heading into sections, Green said she’s very happy with how the team is playing.
“I’m super excited heading into sections, we’ve had an amazing season and us girls are really connecting,” she said. “Our defense has been doing well by keeping it low-scoring games and our offense is getting a lot of opportunities which we are capitalizing on.”
Green also said that if there was one thing the team needed to work on before section play, it was being more patient on offense and not trying to force as many plays.
End of the regular season
The girls’ match against North St. Paul was very different as they applied constant pressure to the Polars’ defense and dominated both halves. Senior Libby Larcholey scored the first goal after drawing a foul and then booting it home when the Polar goalie came out and misplayed. The Raiders led 1-0 at half after outshooting the Polars 6-1.
The second half is when Hastings really poured it on. Less than two minutes into the second half, senior Noelle Zwart scored to make it 2-0, assisted by fellow Green. Twenty minutes later senior Grace Wagner headed in a free kick from sophomore Bella Meier and it was 3-0. Less than a minute after Wagner’s goal, there was a mad scramble in front of the net including a collision with the Polar goalie and Larcholey put the rebound in for her second goal of the night. With less than five minutes left in the match, Meier had another free kick that was knocked in by a Polar player on accident. She added a second goal to make the final 6-0. In all, Meier and Larcholey each had two goals, Wagner and Zwart each had a goal apiece and Green added two assists.
The Raiders then suffered an uncharacteristic loss at Hill-Murray on Thursday, Oct. 3, when they were blown out by the Pioneers 5-0.
“Hill-Murray is a good team and have some strong players throughout their offense,” Green said. “We knew they were good coming into the game. We kept with them in the first half and Kaitlin Petrich our goalie made a great save to keep it 1-0. But in the second half their offense took off. We played well for some of the game but we could’ve played much better and they caught us on our heels. It was a tough loss but a good learning experience right before sections.”