By Steve Hill

May 14, 2019

Marshfield — The two friends — and conference player of the year candidates — met for a chummy pregame chat from opposite sides of midfield. But once the whistle blew, it was all business, a matchup of two powerful chief executives and their teams bidding for the same prize.

Super juniors Nina Hashimoto of Marshfield and Maddie Simpson of D.C. Everest both played stellar games, but it was Simpson’s league-leading Evergreen teammates who helped her close the deal, a 5-2 victory over the third-place Tigers at Griese Park late Tuesday afternoon.

Hashimoto got both Marshfield goals and staked her team to a 2-1 halftime lead, while Simpson had a smashing second half to finish with four goals, moving Everest (15-1-1, 9-0-0 Wisconsin Valley Conference) a big step closer to regaining the conference title it lost to SPASH last season.

Marshfield coach Steve Linder took some solace in the defeat.

“Until the 70th minute, it was still 2-2 against one of the top teams in the state, so I’m very proud of the way the girls played,” he said. “They didn’t give up at all.”

He also marveled at the individual matchup that highlighted the game.

“Maddie Simpson is a force … but Nina, with her footwork … there’s nobody who can do the magic she does out there,” Lindner said.

It took less than four minutes for Hashimoto, a first-team All-WVC midfielder in 2018, to give the home team a lead. A crossing pass from sophomore midfielder Courtney Meyer found Hashimoto open on the left side, and she smacked it back against the grain into the far post to put her teammates up 1-0.

In the 29th minute, a handball in the box gave Everest a chance to tie it up.  Simpson, last year’s WVC player of the year and an all-state second teamer, did so with the penalty kick.

Despite dominating possession and field position throughout the half, including several good looks for Simpson, the Evergreens were unable to crack the Tigers defense.  Meanwhile, it was another penalty kick that gave the home team a mildly surprising 2-1 haltime lead.

Sophomore forward Kate Schilling flew down the left side on a strong counterattack and found Hashimoto in the middle of the scoring box, where she sent an outlet pass to the right.  Hashimoto was set to receive a crossing pass back when she was taken down by an Everest defender, resulting in the penalty, which she placed calmly into the lower-right corner.

The second half was more of the same, with Everest coming out dominant and firing.  But when Simpson missed a penalty kick in the 55th, it began to look like it might be Marshfield’s day despite being outplayed, at least from all appearances.

Things changed in the 60th minute, when junior forward Elle Hersperger’s corner kick from the left came in on a low liner to the near post and Simpson expertly headed it in to that side, making it 2-2.

In the 68th, senior midfielder Meghan Heil got a chance from the left side of the 18-yard box and crossed one nicely into the far corner for a 3-2 Everest lead.

Everest coach Lucas Kollross said he challenged his team at halftime to step up its play.

“I like the way they responded,” he said. “They came out as a different team in the second half.”

Two Simpson goals within a one-minute, four-second span finished it off. The first came near the right side of the goalie box at the 78:51 mark off an assist from sophomore forward Emily Mittelsteadt, making it 4-2.

Very shortly thereafter, Simpson showed the footwork that made her last season’s MVP in a league with a number of stars, working around a pair of defenders in the middle and then poking a shot with the outside of her right foot into the right corner to close out the scoring.

“In the first half, maybe I was a little frustrated, just because we have AP tests going on and it was just tiring,” Simpson said. “But with my teammates motivating me and my coaches telling me to go at it a little harder, it helped a lot.”

For the record, Simpson’s four scores gave her one more goal than she will have advance placement tests over several days, making her Tuesday part of a big week.

Everest now has 27 points in league play and another tough road game at fourth-place Stevens Point on Thursday.  A SPASH win or draw could set up a huge game in Wisconsin Rapids May 21 between Everest and second-place Rapids, which is 7-1-1 (22 points) in the WVC and had Tuesday off.

Marshfield ended Tuesday’s game with two shots on goal, while Everest had a dozen.  Mikayla Brueggen had seven saves for the Tigers.

Kollross said he was impressed with the Tigers’ effort.

“They’ve come a long way,” he said. “They’re a hard-working team, and they really wanted it tonight, so you’ve got to give them credit.”

Although disappointed in the outcome, Hashimoto said she was pleased her team was able to give the state’s No. 6-ranked club in Division 1 a tough battle after the pregame moment with Simpson.

“We play on the same club team, so I was asking how we’re going to do next fall,” Hashimoto said. “She’s a wonderful player, one of the best in the conference, so I was happy to play against her today.”