Entering Thursday's Section 1-AA quarterfinal game, Owatonna coach Nate Gendron was well aware that his team's opponent, Rochester John Marshall, was far from a typical No. 7 seed.
Not only had the Rockets put a major scare into the Huskies on Sept. 22 when they pushed Owatonna to the brink in a 2-1 decision, but finished the regular season with a 10-game stretch that featured two six-goal victories, one tie against the eventual conference champions and seven additional one-goal games.
“We had some film from the last time we played them and we talked with the girls about names and numbers of players we thought were really dangerous and the list just kept going,” Gendron said. “They are a deep team and we knew they had some threats up top and solid players all over the field.”
If their narrow victory during the regular season and Gendron’s pregame breakdown convince the Huskies that the Rockets were a serious threat team, a halftime deficit certainly did. Owatonna had owned at least 75% of possession through the first 40 minutes, but found itself trailing by one-goal heading into the break.
Gendron admitted his players were “down” after a frustrating opening stanza, but as they would prove in the second half, they were far from out.
"This is definitely a special group," Gendron said. "What I really love is no matter what, they do not turn it off. We could be up by five goals or down by one at halftime, they don’t turn it off and they keep pushing."
With a little luck and a lot of talent on their side, the steady Huskies forged ahead after intermission and ultimately held on for a 2-1 victory.
Ezra Oien tallied the game-winning goal when her free kick was redirected into the back of the net after thumping off a Rockets’ player from inside the box with 15 minutes, 11 seconds left on the clock.
“The girls were down, and you could see it,” Gendron said of his team’s disposition at halftime. “We had to tweak a few things, but mainly we just needed to find the net. We were saying: ‘At the end of this next 40 minutes, we are going to have smiles on our faces,' and sure enough, here we are."
Oien’s goal came roughly 20 minutes after John Marshall inadvertently put the Huskies on the board on an own-goal at the 34:34 mark. Senior Sarah Kingland was the last player to touch the ball for Owatonna and was credited with her first career goal.
With the victory, Owatonna (8-2-1) advances to play third-seeded Northfield (6-3-3) after the Raiders defeated No. 6 New Prague in a shootout, 3-2. The Huskies will enter the semifinal game undefeated in their last eight outings with their only non-victory in the span coming on Sept. 24 when they finished in a 3-3 draw against NHS on their home field.
Sophomore Ayana Robinson scored John Marshall's only goal at the 10:13-mark of the opening half when she tapped in a loose ball that had snuck behind the OHS goalie.
AROUND THE SECTION
In a somewhat stunning, yet reasonable upset, eighth-seeded Lakeville South shocked top-seeded Rochester Century on the road, 3-2. Though the Cougars started the season 0-5 and entered the postseason with a 1-7-3 record, they play in the rugged South Suburban Conference and entered the playoffs having gone 1-2-3 in their last six games with the only losses in the span coming by one goal. The SCC finished the season with two teams in the top 10 of the QRF and another, Eagan, in the top 15. Conversely, the Big Nine Conference-champion Panthers finished at No. 24.
In other action, No. 5 Farmington — also of the South Suburban — defeated No. 4 Rochester Mayo, 2-1.