HUDSON, Wis. -- Hudson boys’ soccer coach Steve Sollom never thought the Raiders would get this far.
Not that he didn’t think they were good enough to get to state. He just wasn’t sure they’d ever get the chance.
“I’m being honest,” he said. “I did not think we’d have playoffs. I didn’t think we’d get that far, and I didn’t think we’d get far enough to even have our regular season. I thought we’d be coming back in the spring. So as the season went on it was like, just control what you can control, and once we got to the playoffs I thought, hey we have a chance.”
All the Raiders did was go out and put together an undefeated, albeit shortened, regular season, earn the No. 1 seed for the playoffs, and post back-to-back 1-0 victories over New Richmond and Wausau West to qualify for the WIAA State Tournament for the first time since 2007.
“It feels good,” Sollom said. “We’re just hoping we can represent our community to the best of our ability and let the chips fall. At this point it’s all gravy anyway.”
The Raiders got an early goal from Lake Buzicky off a corner kick in their sectional semifinal against third-seeded New Richmond Thursday night, Oct. 29, before holding off a gritty Tiger team for a 1-0 victory.
Saturday in the sectional final against Wausau West, Joey Grikis headed in a cross from Trevor Nava-Barber at the 16:59 mark for the only goal of the game. The Raiders had a number of chances to pad their lead but had a second goal disallowed, hit a post and were denied another chance by a great clearance off the line by a Wausau West defender.
“If we could have just gotten that second goal we could breathe a little easier,” Sollom noted. "But they’ve got a very good team and they kept it interesting.”
Hudson goalkeeper Lucas Biederman needed to make just one save as the Raiders outshot the Warriors 10-1, and Sollom credited senior defender Tieg O’Kelly with a great job shutting down Wausau West’s top player, Nicholas Raasch.
“Tieg O’Kelly is the guy who organizes our back, and I said, 'Tieg, you’re going to have to go where he goes,'” Sollom said. “And Tieg did a really nice job of limiting him. I don’t think he had a shot the whole game.”
Sollom said the Raiders missed their traditional battles with Big Rivers Conference Eau Claire Memorial this season. The Raiders and Old Abes have combined to win the last 10 BRC titles and have met in either the sectional semifinals or finals five of the past 10 years, but Memorial opted for the spring alternate season this year under the WIAA’s coronavirus guidelines and did not compete this fall.
“The battles with Eau Claire Memorial obviously are just huge for us,” Sollom said. “And they’re fun. And whether you win or lose you know you’re playing a quality team every year. And they weren’t in it, but again we can’t control that either. We can only do what we can do, which is play the teams that they line up for us and do our best. And Wausau West is a really good team so I felt that it was a quality section final. Now it’s a whole other level.”
Hudson received the No. 4 seed for the four-team WIAA Division 1 State Tournament and will play top-seeded Marquette 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 7, at Mukwonago High School. Second-seeded Arrowhead and No. 3 Elkhorn kick off the tournament at 11 a.m. with the state title game scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
“We’re just going to get into the fire of it and hope we can do Hudson proud,” Sollom said about this weekend’s state tournament. “I learned early when I was trying to control things that you’ll go crazy if you try and predict what’s going to happen.”