Kyle Bengtson (21) kicks Lakeland’s first goal at 2:47. It was Bengtson’s third straight game with a goal. The T-Birds would win 5-4 in overtime over Shawano.
Kyle Bengtson (21) kicks Lakeland’s first goal at 2:47. It was Bengtson’s third straight game with a goal. The T-Birds would win 5-4 in overtime over Shawano.
The Lakeland boys’ soccer team made it tough on themselves Tuesday night at River Valley Bank Field.

The Thunderbirds lost a lead three times but reclaimed it just in time to beat Shawano 5-4 in an overtime opening round WIAA playoff match.

Just a minute into overtime as Lakeland was putting on pressure off a corner kick, the ball was deflected off a Shawano defender into the goal and the Hawks essentially scored the bizarre game winner for Lakeland. 

The T-Birds held on despite a strong offensive effort by Shawano’s Michael Klement, who scored all four of the Hawks’ goals.

“I’m happy with the way they fought back,” co-head coach Rhonda Maulson said. “It wasn’t our best game and they knew it. We knew it. But they still battled hard and did what they had to do to finish.”

And it was tough from the start. In the opening minute, Lakeland goalie Mason Holmquist was put under heavy pressure and received rapid fire, but was able to block all shots.

This cleared the way for Kyle Bengtson to continue a three-game scoring streak as he sprinted for a cross shot and kicked in a stray ball on the roll for the 1-0 lead at 2:47. 

The T-Birds would dominate possession the rest of the half, but when Shawano struck, they struck with ferocity and this demanded more Holmquist magic. 

In the 31st minute the Lakeland goalie was again under pressure when Shawano peppered a trio of shots that sent him across the net. He first made a diving save to his right, then immediately went to his knees to save the rebound in the center, and then had to leap to his left for a final deflection. 

When the dust cleared, the Thunderbirds still had the lead and held it until the break.

“I’ve coached Mason for three of his four years and I’d say that is the game of his career,” Maulson said of her goalie’s fantastic play in the face of the fast and furious Shawano attack.

But as play resumed, so did that pressure and Shawano was finally able to get past Holmquist as Michael Klement kicked one by him just under the top crossbar and the game was tied 1-1.

Then Lakeland again took control of possession, but was unable to generate quality shots.

The Hawks, however, took advantage of their short time with the ball and Klement scored again in the 59th minute and the T-Birds trailed 2-1.

But Lakeland’s Brandon Boh was having none of it. He immediately took the ball down the middle of the field and sent a rocket into the net to tie the game at two. 

Momentum stayed with the Thunderbirds as a minute later they would take the lead 3-2 on a Jason Hilgart header off a Bengtson corner kick.

But the T-Birds could just not stop Klement and two minutes later he completed his hat trick and tied the game once again.

“Definitely he was very fast. But if we would’ve prevented him from getting the ball, even starting from the middle and marking up tighter in the middle and then even marking up tighter on the outside, we could’ve helped prevent him from getting some of those balls distributed to him,” co-head coach Stephanie Hartzheim said about her teams struggles with Klement. 

But, as they had all night, the T-Birds continued to fight and in the 75th minute put down a rain of shots on Shawano until finally Boh found space on a rebound and kicked it in for the 4-3 lead.   

If anyone was going to have anything to say about that, it was going to be Klement, and in the 86th minute he again got past the defense and went one-on-one with Holmquist and beat him for his fourth goal to tie the game 4-4 and send it to overtime.

For their efforts, the T-Birds got to continue in the playoffs on Thursday at Mosinee, which concluded after deadline. If Lakeland pulled off the upset of the top-seeded Indians, they would be on the road for the Regional finals at the New London-Amherst/Iola-Scandinavia winner on Saturday. Coverage will be in Tuesday’s paper.

Jacob Friede may be reached at jacob@lakelandtimes.com or sports@lakelandtimes.com.