Senior Luke Bowman used Comedy to communicate some of the ways God is changing Luke during his time at Hillcrest.
Kyler Newman's street clothes replaced his Hillcrest uniform as he rested and watched his team grit out a hard fought game against Ashby last night. With Newman sitting next to the coaches for the game, Hillcrest looked down the bench and saw a number rise to the occasion despite surprisingly falling cold from the floor in shooting a mere 36%. Hillcrest relied on hard work and their defense in battling to a 55-43 victory.
Hanna Lavin came off a screen in the opening minutes after her team broke the full-court press. Confidence is marking the Comets under their new head coach Zach Nersten. When Lavin squared her shoulders she cast a three pointer that easily sailed through the net, starting the Comet scoring and setting a tone for hot shooting for the Comets in their 59-47 win.
Our tiny planet hurtles through space at a tearing 67,000 miles an hour, spinning on its axis 365.25 times every year, without fail. We orbit a colossal ball of fire, 1,300,000 times larger than earth, 93,000,000 miles away. The night sky bursts with stars, showering us with brilliance. Truly “the heavens declare the glory of God the skies proclaim the works of his hands…”
The Comets' fundamental approach to the game finds bumps and bruises in the midst of putting up big points against the Panthers. Tuesday night was more of the same for the Comets.
Twenty pounds of potatoes became mountains of warm lefse nestled under clean, white dishtowels. Twenty-five loaves of French bread, kneaded and baked, cooled upon a stainless steel counter. Hundreds of gingerbread and sugar cookies, rolled, baked and decorated loaded countless trays on the table. This Sunday was the Cooking Club’s inaugural event and dozens of students participated in the floured frenzy.
Every flat surface of the kitchen and cafeteria was covered with various baking projects, and teams of students worked for hours to a loud soundtrack of classic Christmas music. Outside the high windows, snow fell steadily, adding to the coziness of the epicurean experience.
An American mom and grandma were on hand for the lefse training. This was a first for many Norwegian and domestic students. Lefse rolling, transfer and grilling is a delicate art, passed down through generations. There was much loud singing, the occasional attempt at harmony, and a lot of laughing. How fun to share culture at this blessed time of year when we celebrate the one thing that connects us more than any other--the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Merry Christmas from the Castle!
The Comets pent up energy for their home opener exploded on the court Monday night. Hillcrest smothered the Pelican Rapids Vikings who looked surprised to see Hillcrest leap to a double-digit lead with 16 minutes to go in the first half.
When Gregg Preston put the cap back on the marker and lifted his hand in the locker room to call his team to a final chant before hitting the court there was unique electricity in the air. The Comets had their season kick-off delayed from Tuesday due to a snow storm. The extra day of practice put them in place to battle one the regions hardest working teams in the West Central Area (WCA) Knights. When the final buzzer sounded fans worked to reorient themselves, having watched a game most expect to see during March Madness. The Comets won on a buzzer beater, 56-54.
For much of the first half the Comets and Knights worked to shake off cobwebs. Hillcrest is known for stifling defense and disciplined ball movement. But after a few possessions Gregg Preston needed to call a timeout. It seemed that the Comets had the ball for 8 possessions and gave the Knights 4 easy trips to the rim on the other end after Hillcrest turned the ball over.
Settling in on offense, the Comets struggled to execute a disciplined attack at the basket. Shots weren't falling from outside like they were at the end of the 2016 run to make State. Hillcrest was 7-for-25 from behind the arc. An abysmal 28%. Working inside, Hillcrest wasn't much better. Their shooting consisted of pull-ups from the elbow and bunnies underneath. It was easy to see this was the first game of the season when Hillcrest went into the locker room down 22-25. When the night ended their stat sheets read a 19-for-56 clip for field goals. A 34% shooting night is uncommon for Hillcrest.
Hillcrest got off 81 shots throughout the night, while the Knights only cast 57. As Hillcrest stepped onto the court to start the second half there was a different air about them. Coach Preston seemed to institute a few rules for the Comets because their play was more focused, albeit the Comets looked tired.
A nip-and-tuck scoring push was underway from both Hillcrest and WCA. With both teams working to out hustle the other, back door cuts put players in awkward positions and sent the teams to the line where they worked to grab any points they could. The Knights had a rough time getting scoring going at the free throw line. Of the 26 trips Hillcrest granted WCA, the Knights only hit 10, marking a 38% mark for free throw shooting. Hillcrest was much better, where the Knights played with more disciplined footwork and only sent Hillcrest to the line 15 times, where they hit 11, going 73% in the free shots.
WCA earned their trips to the free throw line through a steady attack of the paint. A few quick adjustments by the Comets cut down on the entry passes and the Knights implemented a different strategy.
With time running down in the game Hillcrest found themselves playing from behind. Their help-side defense and execution on offense looked tentative as they reacted to the Knights passes instead of anticipating WCA's ball movement and offensive strategy.
With a little over a minute left in the game Hillcrest senior Sam Isaac found himself in the corner receiving a pass. A quick shot led to the Comets springing back on defense with the scoreboard in their favor, 52-49. WCA pulled the score even with an answer to Isaac's late game heroics, and with 40 seconds left on the clock Hillcrest began a march to end the game with a final second shot.
Hillcrest set to working the ball around the perimeter, looking to take off enough time from the clock to get a shot within 10 seconds of play. Senior Sean McGuire stepped out to take a pass, knowing his post defender wouldn't step out in coverage. As he received the ball his hands instinctively went into a shooting position as they gripped the ball, and with over 30 seconds on the clock McGuire cast a 3-pointer and stepped outside the Comets' game plan.
Fortunately, Senior Daniel Preston out hustled a Knight defender, and crashed the glass to grab the rebound. Daniel's rebound was the most significant play for the Comets that night, pulling the game back into their reach as the entry pass found Kyler Newman on the wing and reset the Comet offense.
Newman found a crease as he worked off seconds on the clock, splitting two defenders with an off-balance move, and found McGuire crashing the glass. Newman cut two defenders, bouncing a pass behind his defender, slipping the ball behind McGuire's defender as well, as Sean forced his shoulder behind that of the Knight post player to put his shoulders in line with the basket, catch the pass, and make a layup while being fouled.
With two seconds on the clock McGuire stepped to the line with a 56-54 lead. In missing his free throw McGuire watched the Knights scramble for a full-court shot, but it was in vain as Hillcrest pulled out a gutsy win.
Kyler Newman led the scoring for the night, putting together 26 points in leading the Comet attack. McGuire added 11, Preston tacked on 8. Reggie Undseth contributed 5. Sam Isaac's three pointer with a minute left were his only points on the night. Isaac's defense helped the Comets keep the game close in addition to his clutch 3-pointer. Colin Erickson added 2, and Tommy Thompson made a free-throw.
Hillcrest has two home games next week before starting the Christmas break. Monday the Comets play Pelican Rapids, and Tuesday the face Ortonville. Game time for the varsity is set at 7:15pm.
Hillcrest's guard play worked to compensate for the Chargers' smothering defense. Senior Hanna Lavin added 7 points in working to create separation off the dribble.
After an hour of animated questions, Raquel and Rebekka delighted the children by singing a song and reciting the Lord’s Prayer in Norwegian. The class was spellbound. They swarmed around the two teens as they attempted to leave the classroom.
The Lady Comets opened the season against a Henning team boasting six seniors. After falling behind and seeing a four point deficit on the scoreboard Sophomore forward Olivia Foss caught eyes with her teammates and started the Comets scoring engine.
Senior Hanna Lavin opened scoring for Hillcrest, confident in her slicing to the hoop with Foss trailing and cutting to position for a rebound. Fueled by the Comet proficiency in breaking the press, Foss found the lane open as the Comet guards worked to reverse the ball in the opening few series. Foss took advantage, finding lanes to cut to the hoop as Lavin, Susanna Preston, and Ruthanne Erickson worked backdoor cuts and created separation around the the three-point line.
Senior Ruthanne Erickson is the Lady Comets' top outside threat, able to spot up as Lavin slices to the hoop with aggression. Susanna Preston is the game manager, controlling the offense and setting up plays as she surveys the court. Preston's ability to see passing lanes opened shots for Erickson and placed the ball in Lavin's hands as Foss and Senior Abigail Christenson crashed the boards.
Foss found scoring early in her hustle for rebounds. Her quick put-backs closed the gap for Hillcrest and gave the Lady Comets a 14 all tie minutes into the game. With the defense shifting, working to manage both Christenson and Foss in the paint, Hillcrest's guards were able to generate separation off screens where Ruthanne Erickson found easy scoring to pull Hillcrest up back to a 16 point tie midway through the first half.
The Lady Comets play an aggressive half-court defense. A few quick fouls by Preston and Senior forward Anna Newman put the Henning Hornets at the line where they shot 52% on the night, capitalizing on Hillcrest's first game jitters.
The Hornets put together a surge in scoring to close the first half. An 8 point run put the Comets on their toes as Hillcrest regrouped, putting together two simple free throws and stopping Henning on defense before the final buzzer sent the teams to the locker rooms. The score at half was 28-20.
Henning came out of the locker room determined to put distance between themselves and the Comets. A 12 point scoring had Hillcrest on their heels before Foss found the backboard and posted a two-pointer to pull the Comets within 20 points of the Hornets four minutes into the second half.
The Comets kept with Henning through the rest of the half, keeping the Hornets' lead under 25. The Lady Comets are known for their resiliency, playing through the final buzzer. Stout defense turned created a few turnovers as Preston, Newman, and Erickson jumped into a full-court press to add points to the Comets' column and finish the game scoring. Erickson knocked down a three-pointer, Newman found a simple layup, and Preston ripped the ball from the Hornets at midcourt, finishing the game with a strong layup and the crowd hungry for another half of play.
Olivia Foss led the Comets with 21 points. Ruthanne Erickson hit one three-pointer and 3 long twos for a 10 point total at the end of her stat line. Foss' compadre in the paint, Abigail Christenson, finished with four points, keyed the entire night by the Hornet defense. Lavin, Preston, and Newman each contributed 2 points as the Comets closed their first game with their scoring engine still revving. The 60-41 loss was a warm-up for their season.
Hillcrest plays Brandon-Evansville Thursday, December 1 in Brandon before coming home again for a night game vs. Park Christian in the Student Activities Center at 7:15pm.
Drifting, whipping, sideways blowing, frozen crystals of ice...SNOW. Canceled classes marked a significant first for a number of our international students.
A daring group of girls braved the elements and walked to The Viking for breakfast before the sun rose. Other students could be seen all over campus, making and throwing snowballs, studying the process of snow-angel and snowman formation, and sliding around on the sidewalks in their shoes. But for a few the day of firsts made them look a little unconventional in enjoying the snow day.
One male Thailand student, who shall remain nameless, was found shoveling snow outside in his socks. A dean had to yell, “Paul--put some shoes on!” That student has subsequently spent a good five hours outside. With shoes on.
Many of the American and Norwegian students are less excited about the snow, but perfectly thrilled to have the day off school. Here is the scene inside the Student Union: Blanket-swaddled students nestled around the fireplace while various board and card games are strewn on every flat surface with students huddling around. Outside, the wind howls and the snow falls intermittently. Winter has arrived at the Castle.
Loons called to one another from across the lake, the stragglers reluctant to head south for winter. The ice-blue water lapped against the bare sand of the deserted beach and the trees rattled their naked branches against a late autumn breeze. Down a leaf-littered path in the woods beneath a cerulean sky, 19 girls stood facing a broad log/beam suspended parallel between two larger trees a good six feet off the ground. The goal? To get each girl up and over the log, one at a time. How would this happen? Communication. Teamwork.
There were numerous unsuccessful attempts and much strategizing. They tried going over feet first. Backwards. Rolling up and across on their stomachs--ouch!! At last, a system was worked out as, one by one, the girls were boosted, muscled, and dragged over the beam. A couple of the girls made themselves human ladders and literally let their teammates walk all over them as they breached the log barrier. Balancing so high off the ground, trying to get a foot underneath their bodies proved to be a frightening position and some of the girls were visibly shaking. “You’re okay--I’ve got you,” was called out over and over.
Later, the team participated in a service project of raking and bagging leaves for the camp. The girls enjoyed amazing meals together and more group events that fostered trust and cooperation. Time was spent worshiping together around a campfire under a starlit sky. Several hours of the last morning found the team lounging in pajamas and affirming one another, eliciting many smiles, laughter, and a few tears.
How do these activities translate to life in general and time on the Bball court specifically, you might be asking?
1.They reinforce the reality that we were made for community. No one is strong alone. We need others because together we can do so much more than we can individually. There is no such thing as a one man team.
2.Everyone is important, not just a few. Naturally gifted individuals may stand out early on, but every person is necessary for the good of the whole. Every person has value. Every person has gifts and talents and brings something unique to the group. Those who cheer and encourage are as valuable as those who screen and score.
3.You can’t learn from others if you do all the talking. It may be that the quieter members of the group have the answers you need but you can’t hear them if you don’t stop talking. Listening to your teammates on the court can mean all the difference between a botched play and success. Others can see things you can’t. If you’re smart, you’ll listen to them.
Basically, I think the Take-Away from the retreat was a renewed appreciation for sisters in Christ--people who not only lead the way on the court but in the greater scope of life as well. These are the people we want to emulate--friends that display the heart of Jesus and point us to His finished work on the cross. People who make us want to be our Best Selves and, in all we do, bring honor and glory to God. It’s going to be a GREAT season of Comet Girls Basketball! Come on our and cheer us on!
The sun streamed brightly in from the eastern windows, flooding the room with all the warmth of autumn. Students in black dresses or black and white tuxedos wheeled residents of the Veteran’s home to prime real estate around the grand piano in preparation for the concert HLA choir members were about to give.
“Thank you for your service,” I heard over and over. “What branch were you a part of?” There were handshakes, tender youthful arms draped around frail shoulders, and many smiles.
When the choir took their places, they leaned in to hear a word from their director Mr. Bedwell. He reminded them that the vets they were about to address in song were the people who made our country great and secured the freedoms we enjoy today. And then, the musicians were off, singing their hearts out to a mixture of patriotic and sacred numbers. Some of the residents sang along heartily. Others smiled in appreciation and remembrance, and clapped wrinkled hands.
What impressed me most about our young people today was not the dignified way they stood, or the lovely pitch and dynamics of their blended voices. It was the tender way they interacted with the heros of our country. After the musical performance, the group dispersed to mingle over coffee and donuts with their audience. I saw strapping young men kneeling beside wheelchairs in order to hear and be heard. I saw a cluster of laughing girls being entertained by an older gentleman who sang a polka for them. One sweet Korean/American woman engaged three of our Korean students in their common language and invited them to tour her room. It was an awe-inspiring blend of generations, each greatly appreciating the other. As we drove away, one student asked, “When can we come back again?” Honor is a lovely thing.
Hans Holzner is a gamer. His 16:30 finish in New London, MN, propelled Holzner into the state meet. Pushing through pain and displaying resolve in running a more difficult, more hilly course with aggression, Holzner finished 23rd overall at the State Cross Country meet at St. Olaf in Northfield, MN with a 16:42.
Holzner packed his bags and threw them in the back of the family van, setting out from his home blocks from the Hillcrest Castle to the World Mission Prayer League house in Minneapolis on Friday night before the Saturday morning race. With his father by his side, Holzner mentally prepared for the race Friday evening. Having run the course a year earlier, finishing 32nd overall with a time of 17:03 last season, Holzner was determined to compete with more aggression and abandonment.
Holzner's preparation has involved mentally preparing to face pain. It isn't uncommon for him to reference others facing difficulties and experiencing pain as a motivation to face pain in running. So as his week of running dwindled from a multi-mile training earlier in the week to a simple 3 mile jog Thursday night, Holzner's mind wasn't set on the physical aspects. His body was ready for that. His mind was set on pain.
Holzner woke Saturday and ventured to the course in Northfield. His final stretches and preview of the course led him to the starting line where he leaned gently in lane 23, waiting for the call to run one last time on the cross country course.
Pushing through the difficult course was made easier by the balmy 63 degree temperature. Straining over hills, Holzner's stride propelled him past a series of runners as he worked to remain in the lead pack after the first mile. A 5 minute mile split in the first 1/3 of the race is impressive. Holzner would hold tightly to this mark throughout the day.
Falling a little behind, Holzner continued to push his body, evident by the straining muscles as he fought the course. The second mile held more hills to climb and stunted Holzner whose easy stride made possible by his long legs is muted on hills. Shorter runners who churn their steps faster eat hills quickly. Holzner finished the second mile 30 seconds slower than his first, marking down a 5:30 split for mile 2.
After battling past the hardest portion of the course, Holzner stretched his stride. A mere 14 seconds separated Holzner from the head of the leader pack. With energy waning, Holzner pushed his body toward the finish line. Runners saving a kick for the final stretch found Holzner giving all in an effort to remain with the top pack. His final mile split was 5:12. Two competitors passed Holzner in the last stretch. Hans gave everythign on the course, marking the 23rd place in State with a time of 16:42. His pace evened out to a 5:23 mile to mark the 3.11 mile event.
When Holzner crossed the line there were a mere 22 other runners, some hunched over, others arching their back as if the oxygen were draining through into their throat. Holzner's 23nd place was monumental for him, beating his previous year placement by 9 slots.
As Holzner posed for pictures with friends and family it was easy to think of this ending being the beginning. Teammates from his 4X800m track team flanked him in the picture. Their eyes are set on joining Holzner in representing Hillcrest with their legs.
For Holzner, the cap on his Comet cross country career is one for the record books. His two-time state berth, continuing to hunt for improvement and mature in his attitude and outlook on running, will inspire future runners to chase his records. Hans finishes his time at Hillcrest with a personal record of 16:21. He holds Hillcrest's record in boys' cross country.
The Comets stopped the Verndale Pirates in the first possession of the game. With the offense taking over in their own end zone, 3 yards from the goal line, there was a clear defense tone that rushed over the field. Sean McGuire then set himself under center. What happened in the next 9 plays the creaking start of the seesaw battle between two of Nine Man Football's best programs.
McGuire's precision on the first quarter drive led an attack that ended with a 64 yard pass to Reggie Undseth, putting the Comets up 6-0. Verndale took the ball on the next possession and proved why they were the number 1 team in Section 4. traveling 63 yards in 6 plays to tie the game.
Field possession was a hot commodity throughout the game as both Verndale and Hillcrest pushed to convert 4th down plays inside their own territory. With under 5 minutes left in the second half, junior Nate Frustol sacked Verndale and propelled the Comets to stop the Pirates in their own territory. An 8 play, 40 yard scoring drive, was capped near the 1 minute mark by Kyler Newman's one yard run. Reggie Undseth crossed the goal line for the two point conversion to give Hillcrest a 14-6 lead going into the half.
After making a series of adjustments, the Pirates emerged from the locker room set to execute a second half push to topple the Comets. With 7 minutes left in the third quarter, Verndale capped an 8 play, 72 yard drive, with an 8 yard scoring scamper. A quick pass converted the two point conversion and the game was tied at 14.
Defense was on display through the entire game, but a few more notches of intensity turned up as the game started the 4th quarter with the score tied at 14. The Comets were able to pin Verndale down in four places, forcing a punt.
Verndale's special teams unit made it very difficult for Hillcrest to build momentum throughout the day. The 4th quarter punt set Hillcrest on their own 6 yard line. Verndale declined a roughing the punter call, opting to trust their defense to pin Hillcrest and force a turnover. Their strategy failed.
A quick pass from McGuire to Newman moved the chains and started Hillcrest on a 94 yard scoring drive, led mostly by senior Kyler Newman. The final push across the goal line left 2 minutes on the clock and only a six point deficit for Verndale to tie the game, after Hillcrest failed to convert the two pointer.
The Pirates weren't done. With the season on the line the Pirates played with unique resolve, pushing the ball past Hillcrest's defensive front, converting a fourth and ten on the drive, to end with the game on the line at Hillcrest's 11 yard line. With the Comet defense hovering around the ball, Verndale stepped to the line with 26 seconds on the clock on fourth down.
With the snap of the ball Hillcrest's defensive backs began to back pedal. The line was exhausted, having to work against one of the State's premiere offenses for four grueling quarters. Putting pressure on the Pirate quarterback didn't rattle Verndale. The receiver made his cut across the field, the pass was crisp to his hands. But the pressure from the Comet defender, with a slap over the ball, left Verndale walking to the sidelines as the Comet offense marched on the field one final time. A simple knee to the ground marked the victory for the Comets, whose trench work on defense, and resilient offensive strikes, led the Comets to victory.
Two 90+ scoring drives helped the Comets compile 389 yards on offense. Newman finished with 166 yards on 28 carries. McGuire passed for 148 yards on 8 completions, sprinting for 43 yards on six rushing attempts. Undseth hauled in 115 of McGuire's 148 yards passing.
Hillcrest plays Cleveland/Immanuel Lutheran in the first round of the state football tournament. The quarter-final for State is played at St. Cloud State University on Friday, November 11 at 5pm.
Senior Hans Holzner is repeating success found his Junior year with an encore trip to the state cross-country meet.
Setting a personal record, Holzner jumped out with the lead pack to start the race. Fans from Fergus traveled to New London, MN to watch the meet. Holzner qualified for state one year prior at the Section 6A championship in Long Prairie. His 17:30 time placed 10th in the meet. Having trained for a repeat trip to state this year, Holzner looked forward to an early kick in New London.
After a few turns and hill climbs Holzner found fans cheering him. After finding him in one corner, fans would dart to another spot on the course. Holzner noted that this helped him stay with with the pack, where he hung around 4th and 5th place for much of the race.
Holzner noted that he wanted to run with peace during the race. Known to have many analogies with his sport and spiritual development, Holzner also spoke to a desire to remind himself of Christ's presence as he pushed himself on the field.
After rounding the final turn, looking down the final stretch, Holzner began to find his kick. Noting that his previous personal record was 17:01, two seconds faster than his State meet time from 2015, Holzner heard cheering from the sidelines. As he neared 400m to go he gave his all and pushed through the finish line. The last kick knocked off at least 15 seconds from his pace, helping him blow away his former personal record by nearly 30 seconds, finishing with a time of 16:37. The final sprint moved him from 4th to 3rd place, earning a decisive trip to the state meet at St. Olaf College in Northfield, MN. The State meet begins at 10am on Saturday, Nov. 5. Hans will run in lane 23 against the 150+ racers. He placed 32nd out of 176 racers last year.
“Sometimes the dorms can get really lonely and you can get really homesick,” one girl shares after reading Night by Elie Wiesel in Philosophy and Religion. “But God is always there for you...No matter how dark or lonely the situation feels.” Mr. Preston's class does more than teach philosophy.
As students file into the classroom and take their seats, Daniel hands Mr. Preston his chocolate muffin and a couple of donuts from Service Food. “Alright class, let’s calm our bodily functions. I have a word from the Lord today,” Mr. Preston announces. After his devotional, students dive into books that provoke deep thought. Night and The Hiding Place cause gears to churn in the minds of students, awakening thoughts and ideas.
One classmate shares that the power of God is made perfect in weakness. Anxiety followed her to Hillcrest this year with the frightening thought of living in the dorms and not being able to see the faces of her parents before she went to bed each night. She was nervous and knew it was going to be a hard transition. But she also knew that God had her in his hands, much like Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place, and Corrie's story provides perspective. The student was able to rest in the fact that God cared for her in the new surroundings. Seeing how God guided Corrie in the heart of Nazi Germany provides the girl confidence. God was Corrie's strength even when she felt weak.
Another girl shares about the loneliness she feels in the dorms. The Hiding Place make it clear to her that no matter what happens, she is never alone. Discussions in Philosophy and Religion reminds her of home--of conversations she had with her family before she came to Hillcrest. She is reminded that God is with her, just as God was with Corrie when she was separated from her father and sister to follow a path that God ordained. Although Corrie felt alone, God constantly showed himself to her. God spoke to her in little ways, like when he provided the Gospels for her to read in prison. This allowed her to communicate with God and God to communicate with her. God was reassuring Corrie that he’d never leave or forsake her.
“Many times we ask ourselves, ‘Where is God in all of this?'” Mr. Preston continues, addressing the class. He references Night when discussing how challenging it can be to see God in situations that seem so dark.
One student addresses this issue by contrasting both books being discussed. He spoke of the power of hope. When people don’t have God’s hope, life becomes shrouded in darkness. The young man observed the uplifting spirit in The Hiding Place that contrasts with the heavy, somber tone permeating Night. “We don’t have to live with the despair that Elie had,” he concludes. “We have hope in Christ, just as Corrie did. So we can live freely and joyfully in that hope.”
As students saunter out of the classroom they go with minds full of new understanding. Their hearts surging with the ultimate hope found only in Jesus. Philosophy and Religion brings life into perspective for many students, reminding them daily of the beacon of hope that is in the Savior.
YoungJu Yoo, Tommy Thompson, and Bobby Schultz are all smiles after their 1-0 victory on Tuesday. The winning goal is becoming a routine play for Thompson and Yoo, while Schultz continues to control the net. Their consistent play is enabling Hillcrest to change their game plan to create mismatches on both the offensive and defensive end.
Looking quickly at the shots on goal, it is natural to think that Hillcrest fell prey at the Sub-Section finals again, continuing their drought of the section championship for the 8th year. However, due to a new scheme implemented by head coach Rod Jensen, the Comets used their 16-4 shot deficit to rise above their competition.
Many estimate that the actual shots taken by St. Cloud Cathedral tallied near 30, but the Comet defense quickly diffused over half the shots, while Schultz took care of the rest in the net.
The game felt to drag on after Hillcrest's quick strike at the seven minute mark. Thanks to decisive passing and a well played ball, Young Ju Yoo planted his feet at the top of Cathedral's goalie box while Tommy Thompson set the ball down in the corner and took a series of decisive steps in setting up the corner kick.
Tommy and Young Ju know this play well. It was a similar connection that earned Yoo a hat trick in the previous game. The two couldn't have known that this connection would again earn the Comets a win. After Thompson's soaring boot, Yoo squeezed between defenders to head the ball in. It's a play all aspiring soccer players dream of, and the duo has made it look easy throughout the season.
After the goal the Comets set up in their new scheme. Smothering defense kept Cathedral fighting for inches while the Comets protected yards of green space behind the back row. The defense continued to push the ball up as Cathedral's talent was no match for the Comet's strategy.
As the referee signaled the end of the game the Comet Tri-captains breathed a sigh of relief. Each had an integral part in the win, hoping to avenge a difficult loss from the previous season where Cathedral outlasted Hillcrest at home.
Hillcrest plays Bemidji, a team they lost to in their opener and one of the final losses in their 12-4 regular season record. Game time is 7:15pm in Bemidji. The winner earns a trip to the State playoffs.
The Comet season is marked by two losses that guided their progress as they look to playoffs. Falling in their first game with a shutout by Bemidji, the rematch earlier this week saw Hillcrest pack their gym bags with a score of 6-3 hanging over their heads. Bemidji is a mountain the Comets must climb at some point this season. Their 6-1 win yesterday in the first round of playoffs marks a team picking up steam.
With 2 of their 4 losses on the season happening this week, the Comets were quick to control the game and right their course. After five minutes of the Comets controlling the ball, their defense pushing the ball up the field against Walker/Hackensack/Akeley/Cass Lake/Bena (WHA), Senior Tri-Captain set-up on the outside after a WHA foul.
Sophomore Nick Foss set the ball and walked back to set up his pass. After assessing the field, Foss started his stride at the ball. While Foss was walking-off steps for his kick, Young Ju Yoo was setting up his defender. Shifting his shoulders, Yoo broke free of the WHA defenders, finding the right-side of the field open. Foss' kick found Yoo darting to the goal, where Yoo's strike stunned the keeper, who was standing flat footed as he watched the ball skip on grass to the lower left side of the net.
The Comets set in to a series of volleys over the next ten minutes. Consistent control of the ball, cutting off WHA passes on defense, left Comet goal tender Bobby Schultz on his toes without much action as the Comets set the pace for the game.
At the 14 minute mark Hillcrest found the back of the net on a one touch shot to the right post. Abdony Sokiri lasered the shot into the net off a loft from the left side by Yoo. 17 minutes later, Yoo found his second goal of the afternoon from a pass by HeeTae Nam.
The Comets dug up the field on WHA's side for most of the first half. Setting the tone was important for them in their first playoff game. After scoring his second goal at the 31 minute mark, Yoo worked to put the game out of reach. Yoo has played with most of Hillcrest's recently successful teams and watched his friends score goal after goal in their march through playoffs. Taking his turn on the team, Yoo set up for teammate Tommy Thompson's corner kick. Another perennial player who is in his final season as a Comet, looking to take his turn in leading Hillcrest's successful soccer program through playoffs.
The two Captains made their playoff statement with Thompson's corner kick. Setting the ball on the sideline, Tommy is known in the area for expertly placing the ball in front of the net. As his strike on the ball soared time seemed to stand still. Yoo leapt, almost simultaneously as Thompson kicked from the corner. WHA's goalie shuffled to receive the ball as he watched it soar past defenders and attackers on its way to Yoo, who headed the ball past the outstretched hands of WHA's goalie. The 4-0 score put the game out of reach as the Comets continued to control the game.
Yoo would go on to score a 4th goal in the contest, and Shantanu Mallick put one past WHA to give HIllcrest the 6-1 victory. The Comets outshot WHA 19-7 on the afternoon.
At 13-4, the Comets advance to the Section 8A quarterfinals vs. Detroit Lakes at 1pm on Saturday at Danielsen Field at Hillcrest Academy.