By Jim Rueda
---- — MANKATO — It's a play the Cougars have spent a decent amount of time on in practice. And on Tuesday evening it paid off.
Midway through the first half of Mankato East's girls soccer match against Austin, the Cougars were awarded a free kick, and Caitlin Clause lined up to deliver it. She lofted the ball up to Rebekah Kolstad who was standing between the defense in front of the goal.
Kolstad intercepted the ball in the air and headed it straight back behind her into the net. The score stood up for the rest of the game as East ended up with a 1-0 Big Nine Conference victory at Thomas O. Anderson Fields.
"Yeah, we practice it," Clause said. "I shouted to her before the play to let her know it was coming her way. After I hit it I could see her eye light up, and I knew she was going to put it in."
Kolstad agreed: "I knew it was coming. I just wanted to time my jump right. I was a little surprised it was the only goal of the game, but sometimes that happens."
The Cougars and Packers played a fairly even first half with East having a slight territorial advantage. That was not the case in the final 40 minutes as East kept the ball almost exclusively in Austin's end.
"We didn't make any adjustments," East head coach Akram Osman said. "The girls were just determined to keep the ball in their end. We should have a had a few more goals, but it's a win and we'll take it."
East ended up outshooting the Packers 23-3. Defenders Clause, Amanda Broman, Sydney Halbur, Ashley Volk and a few others were rarely tested as the ball stayed mainly on the other side of midfield.
Sophomore Emily Flaherty got the shutout with three saves. The win puts East over the .500 mark for the season at 5-4-0.
The Cougars are back in Big Nine Conference action Thursday when they travel to Owatonna for a 7 p.m. game. East is back home Saturday to host crosstown rival Mankato West in the annual Pack the Stands game at 1 p.m.