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Talented Cloquet team learns lessons in loss

The Cloquet girls soccer team has had a remarkable start to the season, entering Monday night's game against a tough Grand Rapids team with a 10-1 record. In a game with significant playoff seeding implications, the Thunderhawks ultimately defeated the Lumberjacks 3-2 in overtime.

"We lost a huge group of seniors from last year," said Dustin Randall, longtime head coach of the 'Jacks. "I knew we had some talent, but it is tough to know what you have when it is a young group and you don't know what other teams have."

On Monday the 'Jacks gave up an early goal and fell behind 1-0, but then bounced back to gain a 2-1 lead. With less than four minutes remaining in regulation, the Thunderhawks tied the game. Grand Rapids won on a goal with two minutes left in the second overtime.

"We came out sluggish and gave up the early goal," Randall said. "We clawed our way back and I think for the most part we controlled the game, but our instinct wasn't to get the bigger lead, and that cost us. Then when you get to overtime, it is about who wants it more, and they got the goal to win."

The loss virtually ensures the Thunderhawks will be the top seed in Section 7, which means Cloquet will have to eventually win on the road if they wish to make it back to the state tournament.

"Maybe we needed that slap in the face to realize just how tough it can be," Randall said. "The girls played well, but this wasn't a meaningless game for us, and now we need to learn from it."

Last week the Lumberjacks rode two goals from Alexa Snesrud to a 2-0 victory over the Proctor Rails. Randall said his team struggled against an opponent that was willing to just sit back and not score.

"The Proctor game was an ugly game for us," said Randall. "It didn't seem like Proctor was interested in scoring goals and with our success comes the challenge of dealing with what other teams are trying to do."

Key to the 'Jacks making another state playoff run will be taking current talents to a new level.

"We are athletic and our girls are not afraid to work," said Randall. "Now we have to learn that it is about not letting up and continuing to build when things are going your way."

Cloquet will get an opportunity to rebound from the loss when they play host to Duluth Marshall Thursday, a team that has struggled to find wins this season.

"We have a great group of girls who want to get better, so I have no doubt that they will use the loss to get even better," Randall said.

While the road to the state tournament may have just gotten a little tougher, this skilled and youthful squad is showing they are more than capable of rising to the playoff task looming on the horizon.

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