The Hastings Raiders girls’ soccer team made history during the regular season and they continued doing so during section play. The Raiders -- who are the No. 3 seed in Section 3AA -- hosted their first section playoff match in 20 years Tuesday night, Oct. 8, when they faced off against the No. 6 Eastview Lightning. Hastings never led and were forced to tie it up twice during regulation to force overtime knotted 2-2. Just minutes into overtime, sophomore Bella Meier got a beautiful through-ball from senior Grace Wagner and beat the goalie for a 3-2 victory. It was Hastings first home section playoff win in over 20 years. The Raiders move on to the second round against the No. 2 Lakeville North Panthers in Lakeville on Thursday, Oct. 10.
Head coach Scott Meier described what he was feeling when he saw Wagner’s pass to Bella and her game winning goal. Scott is not only the head coach but also Bella’s father.
“Ah I’m just like beautiful pass, a great look through and once I saw Bella get inside that player and get a touch forward I knew she was going to be in,” he said. “It was just a matter of taking care of it and tucking it to bed and she did. What a response!”
Hastings dominated from the start but Eastview scored on their first chance just over nine minutes in. The Raiders continued to control play and tied the match at 1-1 when Bella draw a hard foul in the Lightning 18 and Hastings was granted a penalty kick, which senior Ari Green put into the back of the net with just under 11 minutes left in the first half. However, Eastview retook the lead on a corner kick that was deflected into the goal and led 2-1 at halftime.
The Raiders lost two matches and tied two during the regular season while regularly blowing out their opponents. It’s safe to say they did not spend too much time trailing during the past few months but Scott said they kept the message positive on the sideline and at halftime.
“Just stay up, just stay up right? Keep it positive, keep pushing, keep building, it’s coming,” he said about what he told his team. “At halftime the captains talked, the coaches all had some things to say, all really good stuff about staying persistent, staying determined, we have 40 minutes, we have plenty of time.”
“They (Eastview) got a couple of goals on us that probably were unfortunate, probably not typical of how they score their goals,” Scott continued. “So we knew based on how we controlled a fair amount of that game in the first half, we were getting possession but we just weren’t getting what we wanted done in the final third. So it was just a matter of dialing it in and lets execute and that’s what ended up happening.”
With 27 minutes left in regulation, Green scored her second goal of the match to tie it at 2-2 when she stopped the ball, turned and booted from 20-25 yards out with a shot that just snuck in under the crossbar. The Lightning upped their counter-attack in the second half but Hastings still was able to generate more dangerous chances. Despite both teams attacking more, neither were able to convert and it stayed 2-2 heading into overtime. Scott gave the Lightning plenty of credit for how much they pushed the Raiders.
“I didn’t really have a lot of awareness about Eastview. They play in a tough conference, you could say based on their record that they’re probably up and down, but you know what they’re going to battle every game, they have some quality players you could see tonight here,” he said. “Their forward was a lot to deal with, their midfielder No. 16 was a fabulous player. They have other pieces to that squad that created challenges for us throughout the game. I told the girls yesterday that ‘they have some good players, we have good players’. So it’s just a matter of staying in that belief, don’t let doubt enter your mind and keep pressing forward.”
Just minutes into the first overtime period, Wagner found Bella for the winning goal and the Raiders won 3-2. Scott said after the game that his team remained patient throughout the match.
“I think we stuck to our gameplan in terms of how we were trying to defend No. 20. We were trying to limit a lot of the stuff through the middle, a lot of times you saw those through balls were coming through once they got outside and flailing it, our outside defensive backs played really well and stepped up to the challenge,” he said. “Our midfield was there all night, we were getting looks. Our outside mids were giving us great opportunities, our forwards likewise. Right there towards the end of regulation, Molly (Begin) gets through there and she just overhits that. That’s our goal right there and we’re out of here in regulation, that was a beautiful play.”
Lakeville North went 11-4-1 during the regular season and took third in the South Suburban Conference with a 6-2-1 record. Their losses were to Lakeville South, Minneapolis Washburn, Prior Lake and Stillwater, while they tied Eagan. In the first round of sections, the Panthers beat Park of Cottage Grove 3-1.