Girls Varsity Soccer earns playoff win

Ian Ross, Marin Independent Journal
The Marin Academy High girls soccer team hadn’t been to the North Coast Section playoffs in three years and for the first 20 minutes or so, it showed. Nicki Strack’s first goal settled the host Wildcats’ nerves and her second one gave them the cushion they needed to defeat Redwood 2-0 and secure their first NCS playoff win since 2011.

"The first 10 minutes was rough but we got our stuff together and we got the outcome that we wanted because of that," Strack said. "If we had lost, our season would be over. ... A lot of us who want to play right now can’t (because of injuries) so we didn’t take this game for granted."

The victory sends MA (10-5-4) into the quarterfinals against top-seeded Tam at 5 p.m. on Friday.

"We played Tam in the third game of our preseason," MA defender Chloe Conacher said. "We lost to them 1-0 but it was definitely a hard-fought game. We’re excited to face them in the next round."

On Wednesday, Redwood (7-7-2) came out and controlled the game for the first 15-20 minutes before Marin Academy got on the scoreboard following a corner kick taken by Tule Horton in the 25th minute. Horton’s kick found Strack on the back post and she rose above the defense and powered the ball into the net with a header.

"(Strack) scored two great goals today," MA coach Josh Kalkstein said. "As only a sophomore, stepping up and taking that opportunity on is pretty huge."

The goal proved to be a turning point in the game. Redwood’s edge in possession disappeared and Marin Academy was on the front foot for most of the rest of the game. "Once that first goal went in, our heads dropped," Redwood coach Mattias Kodzoman said. "After that, we never looked like scoring."

On the other side of the field, the goal gave the Wildcats the confidence they needed to overcome the early playoff jitters.

"After the first goal everyone calmed down," Conacher said. "We stepped up and played the type of soccer we needed to play."

The game remained tied going into the half but Strack quickly untied it early in the second half. Sammy Klingelhofer’s initial shot was deflected out to Waverly Eichhorst, who crossed the ball to Strack who was again camped out toward the back post. Strack headed the ball back across the goal, giving Redwood goalie Mia Glenn-Schuster no chance to make a save.

"I surprised myself," Strack said. "I took an opportunity. I was there at the right time and it worked out. It was a really great ball from Waverly."

Redwood was missing some key players, including attacking midfielder Lauren Foehr who was injured last week against Drake, but Kalkstein said he knew Redwood would put up a strong fight. The Wildcats defeated Redwood 5-0 in the preseason.

"To be fair, we had a pretty good result against them earlier in the season," Kalkstein said. "I’ve known Mattias about two decades. He’s a great coach. ... It wasn’t a surprise to me that Redwood was as strong as they were despite missing a couple of kids."

Marin Academy’s next task will be an even more difficult one, trying to defeat a Tam team that is looking to win three titles for the second season in a row.

"We played them once before," Kalkstein said. "They are the No. 1 seed for a good reason. ... We know it will be an exceptionally tough game."