By Drew Lyon
Special to The Free Press
---- — NORTH MANKATO — Through two games, Rebekah Kolstad has all four goals for the Mankato East girls soccer team. But if that means the Cougars continue to win, her coach doesn't mind the lack of scoring distribution.
"She was great today," East head coach Akram Osman said after Kolstad completed a hat trick in the Cougars' 3-0 win Saturday over Mankato West at Dakota Meadows. "I'm so happy that she finished three goals. It was huge."
Kolstad's third goal was an unassisted gem that left her teammates and opponents alike in awe. Kolstad was in the left corner with a narrow angle to score, but somehow struck the ball into the back of the upper right-corner.
Kolstad says it was the first time she'd ever scored a goal with such a small margin of error.
"I just turned and got it in," the junior midfielder said. "It was a good feeling to finally score with my foot."
Mankato West head Crissy Makela employed a more dramatic description.
"No one's going to stop that shot," she said. "That was ESPN Top 10 there."
At the outset, the Scarlets controlled the zone and nearly scored on a handful of opportunities early in the first half. But a goal remained elusive against East goalkeeper Emily Flaherty; the Cougars, meanwhile, remained patient and stuck to their game plan.
"Our big thing was to apply the pressure and keep the pressure on all game," Osman said. "We talked a lot of about it on Friday. It took us a while to apply the pressure, but once we figured it out, things started going our way."
Kolstad scored her first goal at the 22:46 mark on an assist from Taylor Kuechle. Kolstad slithered left, past the Scarlets defense, and found a crease past West goalkeeper Katie Lauer.
With 2:18 remaining in the half, Kolstad added to her total when Lizzy Vetter dribbled around the Scarlets' defense and passed to Kolstad, who was waiting in front of the net.
"That was a great goal," Osman said. "We talked about getting the ball to outside and finishing. We really executed it there."
Makela was pleased with how her squad, which she says is searching for cohesion early in the season, rebounded in the second half.
"I think the girls felt much better the way things went in the second half," she said. "We settled down and seemed to find our comfort level."
Both teams realized the importance of snatching a Big Nine Conference win against a crosstown rival just two games into the season.
"I learned the hard way last year," Osman said. "We finished third in the conference last year by one point, so this game matters so much."
West is 0-2 after opening the season against section-rival St. Peter on Thursday.
"It's unfortunate to play two of your biggest games in the beginning of the season," Makela said. "But I expect us to look a lot different in two weeks once we have time to jell and settle in."
Mankato East (2-0) plays again Tuesday at Winona. The Scarlets play Tuesday at New Ulm.