Deep Lumberjacks are on a roll
September 22, 2023
Optimism is running high for the Lumberjacks boys soccer team. Heading into Tuesday night's game against Superior, Cloquet-Esko-Carlton had reeled off six straight wins and improved its record to 7-2.
"Our two losses were to a Top 10 team in Class AAA and the top-ranked team in Class AA," said CEC head coach John Sundquist. "We feel that we have all the pieces to make another strong run at the end of the season."
CEC finished third at the Class AA state tournament last year and they are loaded with talent this season. CEC has one of the best players in the state in Elijah Aultman, but he is not the only star.
"I feel we can wear people down, because we have so much depth," Sundquist said. "We can go two or three deep at every position and we rotate our starters, so we've got guys that will start a game and then come off the bench in another. They all realize it is about the team."
Aultman is nearly unstoppable at times as an offensive force. Last week, the Lumberjacks needed him as they found themselves in a 0-0 tie at halftime with Grand Rapids.
"Sometimes Elijah just says that it is time to go, and that's what happened in that second half against Rapids," Sundquist said.
Aultman scored just 15 seconds into the second half and that started a scoring binge that resulted in three goals in the first seven minutes of the second half, a truly impressive hat trick. Eventually the 'Jacks went on to win 4-1.
CEC's outside midfielders have been a big part of Aultman's ability to score, as juniors Collin Young and Noah Hanson have great speed and are able to help set up the senior forward. Young is second in goal scoring with six on the season, while Hanson is the team's assist leader with six. Junior Hudson Snesrud also has surprised this season with four goals.
"They are so fast it opens up things for Elijah," Sundquist said of Young and Hanson.
Anders Gunelson, Ben Schramm and Brody Dushkin anchor the center-midfield positions and defensively the 'Jacks have seniors Braden Herman and Joe Bailey.
"Those are just some of our great players," Sundquist said. "Both Braden and Joe are monsters back on defense for us and those two have really stepped
In goal, the Lumberjacks rely on Walker Marquardt, who has three shutouts on the season and has the ability to shut down opposing offenses along with his team defense in front of him.
"Walker is a legit stud in goal for us," Sundquist said of the senior. "He's one of those kids who have a chance to play at the very top level of soccer if he keeps working like he has."
As for team expectations, the Lumberjacks are focusing on getting better each game and then winning a section championship for a third straight year.
"We have high expectations and we feel like we are one of the top teams in the state," Sundquist said. "We need to take care of business in our section before we worry about anything else. This group has been to State and they haven't forgotten about finishing third and they want more this season. We have to keep focused and just keep getting better."
The Lumberjacks got a big test Tuesday night when they hosted Superior at Hilltop Park in Cloquet. CEC and Superior were tied at the half 0-0, but the Lumberjacks pounced on the Spartans in the second half and came away with a 3-1 win.
"It got a little tense at times," said Sundquist. "We had a little trouble finishing, but then we got things rolling."
CEC's first goal was scored by Young with Snesrud providing the assist. After Superior tied the game, the 'Jacks got the lead once again on a goal by Max Sundquist with Schramm notching the assist. CEC capped off the scoring when Snesrud hammered home a goal with an assist from Hanson.
The Lumberjacks were set to play Proctor at Hilltop on Thursday after the Pine Knot went to press, then will go on the road to Princeton on Saturday and Denfeld on Tuesday. Their next home game is at Esko against Hermantown at 8 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 30.