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Century goalie Kopp 'parties' again in Panthers' win

Kate Kopp used her stellar goaltending to help guide Century to another girls soccer win, this one just barely over Mayo.

Mayo vs. Century Girls Soccer
Mayo's Evita Hansen (4), left, and Sofia Haakenson (11), right, and Century's Jordan Nowicki (13), center, struggle for the ball during a girls soccer match Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Century beat Mayo 2-1.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — With Miley Cyrus’ “Party In The U.S.A.” blaring in her imaginative head, Kate Kopp is one of the best soccer goalies that the Century girls have ever had.

Well, Kopp makes one distinction. The song is going in the senior’s head when the coast is clear, when the ball is on the other end of the field.

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And when that’s not happening? Well, then Kopp is either doing one of two things with the music turned down. She’s either yelling instructions to her teammates as she directs the Panthers’ defensive traffic, or she is lunging to make saves.

On Thursday at Mayo Stadium, she did enough of both to help earn Century a hard-fought 2-1 win over city rival Mayo. Kopp had five saves and directed what she considers a richly talented group of defenders in front of her.

It was enough for Century to hang on and win its fifth straight game, the Panthers now 6-1 in the Big Nine Conference and 7-3-1 overall. Mayo, which actually owned much of Thursday’s action, slipped to 2-3-2, 2-4-3.

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It was another fun night for Kopp, another “Party In The U.S.A.” No place on earth gives her more enjoyment than being in goal, a place she’s occupied as a Panthers starter since her freshman year.

Mayo vs. Century Girls Soccer
Century players cheer during a huddle at the start of a girls soccer match against Mayo on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Century beat Mayo 2-1.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

“I love being a goalie,” said Kopp, whose team got a first-half score from Jane Mitchell and the game winner with 6:30 left in regulation from Jordan Nowicki, a header off a corner kick from McKenna Baker.

“I love the pressure of being a goalie; there is a lot of it,” said Kopp, who explained that having “Party In the U.S.A.” going around in her head helps her relax and not overthink the game.

But she finds more to enjoy than just the tension of it all and her unique way of counteracting it.

There is also the opportunity to watch her teammates from her unique vantage point, able to constantly see the entire field and her teammates in action, especially her defenders led by star Annika Torbenson.

“I love being able to talk to my team (during games), and to watch them connect passes,” Kopp said. “And when I can make saves, it really turns into a fun game. I’m going to miss everything about this when I’m not here doing it next year.”

She’s particularly going to miss games like Thursday’s. It was tight start to finish, with Mayo showing off plenty of athleticism all over the field.

The Spartans had the edge in speed, led by attacking player Kaia Kirkeby and others.

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It was Kirkeby who had the Spartans’ goal. The explosive sophomore wound in a goal from the right side of the net with 3:57 left in the first half, assisted by senior Isabel Wright.

Kirkeby made a number of runs at the Century defense, particularly in the second half when she broke free for a series of breakaways.

Mayo vs. Century Girls Soccer
Mayo's Jennifer Reyna-Hernandez (10) controls the ball during a girls soccer match against Century on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022, at Mayo High School in Rochester. Century beat Mayo 2-1.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Not of those sprints resulted in goals, though she certainly tested the Panthers defense.

Kirkeby knows how close her team was to winning this game. And not only that, but how close it is to evolving into a winning team.

I“The moment we can start finishing our shots and get them into the back of the net, we’re going to be good,” Kirkeby said. “I felt that we possessed the ball the most in the second. Century rarely had it. Century has some really good players so I felt good that we didn’t let them get many shots.”

Century 2, Mayo 1
Century#1#1#—#2
Mayo#1#0#—#1
Century: Jane Mitchell 1 goal; McKenna Baker 1 assist; Jordan Nowicki 1 goal. Goalie: Kate Kopp 5 saves.
Mayo: Kaia Kirkeby 1 goal; Isabel Wright 1 assist. Goalie: Kaley Peters 9 saves.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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