By Scott Williams For Zaleski Sports
WISCONSIN RAPIDS – Jadon Nienast refused to let a little thing like his left shoulder popping out of place early in the second half prevent him from a chance to turn a dream into reality.
Nienast came out of the WIAA Division 4 boys soccer sectional championship match for about a minute before the Marshfield Columbus Catholic junior defender was back on the field.
Heck. Not even a mini-snowstorm for much of the opening half was going to stop the Dons from fighting until the bitter end to earn the program’s first trip to the state boys soccer tournament since 2006.
The only thing that could stop Columbus Catholic, as it turned out, was a red-hot Northland Pines squad.
Brady Snedden and Bjorn Lubke each tallied a pair of goals and Pines lit up the scoreboard late in each half to swamp the Dons 8-2 at the Washington School Soccer Fields on Saturday.
One of the last eight teams standing in Division 4, Columbus Catholic closes out the season with a 16-2-4.
“It’s a tough loss and they’re a great team,” Dons senior Tom Nystrom said. “It is what it is. Even though it was a tough loss, I’m proud of how we did and how we fought back each time (all season). It was a great season.”
Northland Pines (15-3-4) will find out who and when it plays in the state semifinals after the four qualifying teams are seeded.
Division 4 state action is scheduled to begin Thursday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. Semifinal times are 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The D-4 championship game will be a 11 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 9.
The work of Trevor Romatoski, who handed out three assists, Sam Gremban and Alex Sternhagen in the midfield enabled the Eagles to own possession throughout the match.
The trio served as skilled distributers to a group of talented forwards up front, led by Liam Oas, Lubke and Snedden.
Columbus Catholic keeper Wyatt Drexler did everything in his power to keep the Dons in the match. He finished with 10 saves, including a brilliant diving stop on a penalty kick by Oas with the score tied at 1-1.
“Wyatt was getting shelled. He made a lot of outstanding saves. He should be keeping his head high because he did very well today,” Dons coach Jeff Edwards said. “We saw (Pines) on tape and I think they played the game of their life today. What we saw on tape was not what we saw today. They were very outstanding.”
Brandon Lang came on in relief of Drexler in goal for the final 10 minutes and added five saves.
Both keepers were under relentless pressure most of the match.
There was a glimmer of hope that the Dons could find a way to prevail in much the same manner as their thrilling sectional semifinal win over Arcadia on penalty kicks on Thursday.
Kellen Delaney headed home a beautiful cross from Dylan Porter for a goal in the opening 10 minutes to tie the match just 37 seconds after Pines opened the scoring.
Lubke restored the lead to the Eagles at 27:23. But it was goals from Oas and Snedden in a span of 3:37 late in the first half that sealed Columbus Catholic’s fate.
“I don’t think we anticipated how well they could work the ball around. They were really skilled,” Nystrom said.
When Lubke struck again early in the second half, the handwriting was pretty much on the wall for the Dons.
“It’s sad that this was over in the first half,” Edwards said. “We felt good coming into the game. We just didn’t come through the way we should have today. Once we got down it was going to be tough to come back.”
Nystrom would convert a penalty kick in the second half, but it turned out to be too little, too late.
Columbus Catholic will say good-bye to six seniors – Porter, Zach Olson, Annika Brown, Addison Baierl, Lucas Regel and Nystrom.
The group was instrumental in pushing the Dons to tremendous heights this season. They just missed out on ending their careers on the ultimate stage for just the second time in program history.
“I’m really going to miss these seniors and all these kids now for months,” Edwards said. “We probably had more talented teams in the past, but not a true team.
“This was a really good team that really gelled well together. We were a family. It was just a fun season to be a part of.”
Eagles 8, Dons 2 Northland Pines 4 4 – 8 Columbus Catholic 1 1 – 2 First half: 1. NP, Sam Gremban, 9:02; 2. CC, Kellen Delaney (Dylan Porter), 9:39; 3. NP, Bjorn Lubke, 27:23; 4. NP, Liam Oas (Trevor Romatoski), 36:25; 5. NP, Brady Snedden (Romatoski), 40:02. Second half: 6. NP, Lubke (Romatoski), 52:36; 7. CC, Tom Nystrom (penalty kick), 69:41; 8. NP, Snedden (Lubke), 74:29; 9. NP, Zach Maillette, 85:14; 10. NP, Drew Christensen, 86:06. Saves: Columbus Catholic (Wyatt Drexler 10, Brandon Lang 5) 15, Northland Pines (Colby Kruse 3, Patrick Roth 0) 3. Records: Northland Pines 15-3-4; Columbus Catholic 16-2-4.