KIMBERLY - Appleton North entered Thursday's girls soccer showdown against Kimberly having outscored its Fox Valley Association opponents, 29-0.
Not to be outdone, Kimberly had outscored its FVA opponents, 17-0.
Something likely was going to give Thursday as the teams battled for supremacy in the FVA and the team which has won three of the last four league titles was the one that came out on top.
The Lightning received goals from Meg Riebau and Kitt Richards and topped the Papermakers, 2-0, to take control of the FVA.
"It's huge right now," North coach John Wuebben said. "We were the two top dogs at this point. To get up a game on everybody with three games left is a really nice feeling. It's not over yet, but I like where we're sitting right now."
Added Richards: "It's a huge win. Feels great They're a huge rival for us."
While North has played well most of this season, Wuebben said his team's 4-3 win over the defending Division 1 state champs last weekend was a help.
"This game last weekend against Madison West was a big confidence builder for the girls," said Wuebben, whose team won the 2011 title. "I think that helped us into this game."
North (12-3, 6-0) led 1-0 at halftime after Riebau scored on a beautiful header, but the one-goal lead hardly was comfortable. Then, Richards scored midway through the second half and that 2-goal cushion for a team that hasn't allowed a conference goal all season made things more comfortable.
"That was huge," Wuebben said. "I was talking with my assistant coach and said, ‘If we get another one, we're in good shape.' Kimberly at the end of the first half was putting good pressure on us and all it takes is one slip."
Richards talked about her goal: "I just followed up McKenzie Greisch's shot. She had a fantastic shot. I was just in the right place at the right time."
North players have a way of doing that as the Lightning is 23-0-1 in its last 24 FVA games, dating back to the start of the 2011 conference season.
Because the start of the season was delayed due to inclement weather, teams have had to use games as practice at times to figure out what role each player fits. Wuebben feels he has a good feel for that now.
"We're peaking a little bit right now," Wuebben said. "People are getting comfortable in their spots. We have found a groove where everyone knows their roles and understands what they need to do."
"We're starting to bond real well," Richards said. "We're starting to figure out how each other's playing, but we can definitely do a lot together and get a much better."
Thursday's game was played in a light to moderate rain with wind that caused the rain to fall sideways at times. Obviously not the best conditions, but Richards says that's when you learn about a team.
"It's definitely a challenge," Richards said. "It really shows you your true character when you have to go through the elements like that. Obviously, champions aren't made in good weather."
Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay
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