It took two games to separate the top two boys soccer teams in the Big Rivers Conference. Now, Eau Claire Memorial is in the driver’s seat.
The Old Abes scored twice in a two-minute span and traded penalty kicks in the second half to earn a critical 3-1 victory against Hudson in a matchup of state-ranked squads Thursday afternoon at Memorial.
Eau Claire Memorial is now a leg up in the conference standings since both teams entered without a loss in the BRC. The only blemish either had on its record was caused by these teams’ draw on Sept. 17 in Hudson.
“You train and you dedicate yourself all year for games like this,” Memorial coach David Kite said.
Hudson put pressure on Memorial early on in an up-tempo first 10 minutes, but the Abes got on the board first in the 17th on a spectacular ball from Jacob Peloquin. He sent in an apparent diagonal cross from the left side to a crowd of players on the right post. No Abe needed to touch it since the ball went perfectly into the corner of the net.
“Pelly’s goal was just a perfect service,” Kite said. “The goalie read it as a cross and it was a cross but he hit it so well and he put it in such a sweet area that a goal was going to come out of it either way, whether Luke (Rosenberger) got a touch or the goalie didn’t make the save.”
Two minutes later Rosenberger was able to get a run down the right side and sent a cross straight across the box to Garrett Woodford. The junior midfielder tapped the ball in to double the lead.
“First off we weren’t getting to it, but then we got used to the wet grass,” Woodford said. “We caught up.”
Hudson came out of the half with renewed energy, forcing a penalty kick just two minutes after the break. Kolton Prater shot dead center while Memorial keeper Scott Knowlton dove to his right, getting the Raiders on the board.
Just three minutes later, Woodford got one-on-one with Hudson goalie Lucas Biederman, forcing the keeper to come out of the net to cut down the angle. He got a bit too much of Woodford in a collision, earning a yellow card and handing the Abes a PK of their own.
Lui Shi Xiong, who returned after exiting the team’s match Tuesday with injury, made no mistake and gave Memorial a cushion it wouldn’t need.
“It just kind of comes down to taking it upon yourself to help your team win,” Xiong said. “We had to make up for that penalty. You have to take it calm, cool and put it away so we can get that goal back.”
A heavy rain came down in the final half an hour of play, mucking up the playing surface and hindering either teams’ attempts to create a strong scoring opportunity. While a majority of the play late was in the Memorial end, Hudson didn’t have too much to show for it. The Raiders’ best opportunity came in the 85th minute, when Knowlton stopped a shot from the box near his right post.
The Abes played the second half with three yellow cards after picking up a pair in the final ten seconds of the first. They stayed disciplined in the final 45 minutes, pulling off the victory the team was unable to secure earlier in the year.
“I think we grew as a team,” Xiong said of the difference between the two Hudson contests. “We learned a lot from all our other games and our overnights.”
Eau Claire Memorial concludes the regular season next week against three teams the Abes have already defeated: Eau Claire North, Menomonie and Rice Lake. Combined, Memorial outscored the trio 16-1 in the first meetings.
On paper, Memorial should dethrone the 2018 champion Raiders.
“Ultimately we need to check the boxes and take care of business next week,” Kite said.
Eau Claire Memorial 3, Hudson 1
Hudson 0 1 — 1
Memorial 2 1 — 3
Goals: 1, ECM, Jacob Peloquin , 17th minute; 2, ECM, Garrett Woodford (Luke Rosenberger), 19th minute; 3, H, Kolton Prater (PK), 47th minute; 4, ECM, Lui Shi Xiong (PK), 50th minute. Shots: Hudson 9, Eau Claire Memorial 7. Saves: Lucas Biederman (H) 4, Scott Knowlton (ECM) 4. Records: Hudson 13-3-2, 8-1-1, Eau Claire Memorial 12-1-3, 8-0-1.