Despite loss, Elks take pride in how they played, section run
by Jake Andersen
Elk River’s Section 8 run came to an end against No. 1-seeded Maple Grove once again.
A year after taking a 12-5 loss to the Crimson in the section semis, the Elks, who improved from a No. 5 seed to a No. 4 seed this season, were in a much tighter battle this time around, but couldn’t quite overcome an early five-goal deficit in the second half, resulting in an 11-7 loss.
“We played really good,” Elks senior captain Elizabeth Olson said after the game. “Obviously, Maple Grove is a really good team, so I’m really proud of everyone for how they played and how we worked together as a team. I think we did good. We gave it our best effort.”
Elk River trailed 5-2 after the first half — with Kayleigh Nelson and Halle Johnson scoring for the Elks — before the Crimson extended their lead to 7-2 about three minutes into the second half. With the game starting to slip away, senior Abby Benson sparked a second-half charge by the Elks, forcing a turnover and scoring a goal with 20:06 to go.
From there, Johnson scored her second and third goals of the game before Annika Wozney put the Elks back within one with 11:05 remaining.
“I think our defense got better. We definitely started playing tougher defense and our offense was working together a lot better and starting to get in more. Just harder drives (to the net),” Olson said about what was key to getting back in the game. “And I think at that moment, when we saw that we could actually do it, everyone became more driven and confident.”
Unfortunately, the Elks couldn’t quite get over the hump, as Maple Grove proceeded to score the next three goals. Elk River’s Addy Soukup added a goal with 1:14 to go, but it was too little, too late, as the Crimson added one more goal prior to the final buzzer to escape with an 11-7 victory and advance to the section championship.
Brigit Goetsch recorded the win in net for the Crimson, making 12 saves on 19 shots, while Breanna Plude took the loss, making 10 saves on 21 shots.
“We just had to connect our passes. We had to get clean passes and we had to be able to drive to the net, and that’s one thing we’re going to work on for next year is being able to get to the net more often,” Elks head coach Stephanie Anderson said about what made the difference down the stretch.
Nevertheless, Anderson said she couldn’t be more proud of what her team was able to accomplish in an 11-5 season. The Elks finished tied for fourth in a difficult Northwest Suburban Conference at 8-4 and took down Moorhead and Monticello convincingly in the first two rounds of the section tournament.
They did so with a starting lineup full of underclassmen after losing a large 2018 senior class, as well as a significant group of Rogers girls that played for a new Royals girls program this season. With this in mind, Anderson is optimistic about what the future has in store.
“I’m very proud of them,” Anderson said. “They put up a good run, (considering) over half of our starting lineup is freshmen. So with that being said, I look forward to the coming years and I think the girls will do a good job.”