Hello, My Name Is: Cooper Radke

The senior goalkeeper at Rhinelander endured three-straight penalty kick shootouts to help his team to their first state trip
Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 10:42 PM CST
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) - Cooper Radke will be the first to tell you the most difficult thing about being a goalkeeper; the pressure.

“I think the biggest thing is just the pressure that holds on you,” said Radke. “You only get a few shots on you again and it’s up to you to save ‘em or your team might lose.”

The senior goalkeeper for Rhinelander has certainly had a lot of pressure on his shoulders over the past few weeks. During their postseason run, the Hodags had three straight games ending in penalty kick shootouts. Every single time, Radke delivered.

“It’s crazy,” said senior Braden Mork. “For a keeper to stop three, four shots on PKs is unheard of and it feels like he does it every game, it seems like.”

“We have one of the best keepers in the conference, and probably the state and he performed well for us,” said senior Shane Petrick.

Rhinelander beat Lakeland Union (0-0, 3-1), Medford (2-2, 4-2), and Rice Lake (0-0, 5-4) during their incredible run. In each, Radke made saves in the PK round. After the end of the lengthy PK session in the sectional final against Rice Lake, Radke made a save that officially sent his team to their first state tournament.

”It was awesome,” said Radke. “The team flies at me. I was frozen in my place. I couldn’t do anything. It kinda set in and I ran with them the whole time and yeah it was really awesome.”

It’s fitting for Radke’s first thought to go to his teammates. He calls on them in those moments of high stress to give him confidence.

“Our teammates just have a ton of confidence in me which is awesome to see because I have a lot more confidence and I can dive a lot more harder for them,” said Radke.

The art of saving a PK isn’t luck. Radke carefully analyzes the shooter’s feet, hips, and positioning to make a more accurate determination of where they’re shooting.

“He actually puts some thought into them,” said Petrick. “He knows where people are shooting most of the time. He doesn’t just guess. He puts his effort into them and he’s pretty hyped when he saves them.”

“You can’t really guess because they’ll just watch you and place it in a different corner so reacting is the biggest thing,” said Radke.

Rhinelander played their first-ever game at state in Milwaukee on Friday. In a rain-soaked, lightning-delayed contest, the Hodags fell to Notre Dame 2-1. Despite that, Radke looks on the run with fondness, knowing what it’s done for the community.

”It’s just a different feeling when the whole community can come together on a sporting event and show a lot of support for us,” said Radke.