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It's a breeze for Esko in title game

Girls return to State tourney

In the Section 7A championship game on Tuesday, Esko scored early and often for a decisive 4-0 victory over Marshall, eclipsing a September tie between the teams and sending Esko to state.

Esko's Britta Koski scored on a penalty kick just 1 minute, 51 seconds into the match. The goal by Koski set the mood and momentum for Esko. Koski scored again in the eighth minute when a brilliant pass from Gwen Lilly allowed Koski to split two defenders and beat Hilltoppers goalkeeper Seva Gustafson.

"We are quicker than most teams, so we can use that to our advantage," coach Sharron Lahti said. "All season long we try to stay and play our style and we have been playing some of our best down the stretch of the regular season."

Esko wasn't satisfied with its 2-0 lead, applying a relentless attack, which led to a third goal for Esko, this one by Kaitlyn McConnell. Esko intercepted a pass from Marshall which led to a run through defenders and a successful boot by McConnell. The lead had grown to three just 14 minutes into the match.

Esko made it 4-0 with just a little over two minutes remaining in the first half when Esko beat the Marshall defenders again and senior Jordyn Randa beat Gustafson.

The second half saw Esko playing more of a defensive game, preventing Marshall from getting hardly any scoring chances. When the Hilltoppers did get a scoring chance, Esko goalkeeper Hannah Roemer made the stop.

With neither team scoring in the second half, Esko was able to slow the tempo and dictate the pace of play as time wound down.

"Esko's fast start kind of caught us off guard," Hilltoppers co-head Coach Tim Thorson said. "When they scored their second goal so quickly, it kind of took the wind out of us, and we could never battle back."

Coach Thorson praised the Esko defense.

"They did a great job shutting down Nina (Thorson) and bottling up the passing lanes, they did a great job and deserved the win tonight," he said.

With the victory Esko improved to 13-2-3 on the season. Koski increased her team-leading goals scored to 18 on the season, while McConnell scored her 13th and Randa her sixth of the season.

Esko will find out Saturday whom, when and where they will play next at the Class A girls state soccer tournament. The first-round quarterfinals are scheduled anytime between Tuesday and Thursday, Oct. 24-26, with semifinals set for Tuesday, Oct. 31 and the state championship game on Nov. 3.

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