Rhinelander boys’ soccer team preparing for first-ever trip to state

The Hodags won three consecutive games in penalty kicks to clinch their way to Milwaukee
Published: Nov. 2, 2022 at 7:34 PM CDT
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - The road to state has been an unprecedented one for the Rhinelander boys’ soccer team. Not only is it their first-ever trip to state as a school, but to make it, they’ve won back-to-back-to-back games in penalty kicks.

The dreaded final phase of a postseason soccer match, the Hodags got past Lakeland (3-1), Medford (4-2) and Rice Lake (5-4) in the penalty kick phase to make it to state. In such a pressure-soaked situation, clinching the trip felt extra sweet to the bunch.

“We’ve played 100 minute games, everyone’s exhausted, really long games,” said senior Braden Mork. “There’s a lot of pressure in PK’s, but our keeper, saving the day every time.”

That keeper is a fellow senior in Cooper Radke. For him, in those situations, he feeds off his teammates.

“My teammates have a lot of confidence in me,” said Radke. “I have a lot more confidence and then I can dive a lot harder.”

The team is led by a group of eleven seniors, a group that has had this goal in mind from a very young age.

“Since seven or eight-years-old, we’ve all been playing together, all dreaming and talking about going to state together, and our senior year we finally did it,” said Mork.

As the team prepares to see the state stage in Milwaukee, there are a lot of emotions.

“I know I’m going to be nervous. I know it’s a big game, a lot of stuff on the line,” said senior Shane Petrick. “But I think we’re going to be ready. I think we’re going to be excited to get out there and show them what we can do.”

“It’s awesome, the field itself is super sweet,” said Radke. “We were looking at it at practice the other day. The lights can’t be brighter at this stage.”

Rhinelander are the four seed. They’ll face top-seed Notre Dame. Regardless of opponent, the excitement continues to swell, for the team, and the crowds of Hodag fans making the trip.

“It’s a really big achievement for us,” said Petrick. “Basically, it’s never been done like you said and our whole town is supporting us. The support from the fans is awesome and the school, and it’s just awesome.”

The Hodags match against Notre Dame kicks off at 4:30 p.m. Friday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.