- Just 16 teams remain in the Division Three state soccer tournament. Rhinelander is one of those teams; led by the top scorer in the conference.
"I think we can go all the way to state but really need to be mentally focused," said junior Jonus Sabani.
The Hodags can accomplish that if they can win two more games. Thanks in large part to Sabani's offensive play.
"It's absolutely amazing just to be able to watch him play," said senior Alec Lowry.
Sabani led the Great Northern Conference with 18 goals and tallied three more in Rhinelander's two playoff games last week. All of that scoring draws the attention of defenders, which helps all of his teammates.
"His skill inherently sucks multiple players on the [other] team to him, which opens up opportunities for the rest of the team," said Lowry.
That's helped nine other Hodags score this year. It's something Sabani says comes from familiarity.
"We've always had that chemistry together," said Sabani. "We built it since we were young, so right now playing, and I think it's great that we have that together."
The Hodags used that chemistry to defeat Clintonville 2-1 on Saturday to win a regional championship. Now they turn their attention to the biggest test yet in the sectional semifinal.
"A large part of it is not getting psyched out and scared by all the pressure. The rules haven't changed you're still playing with your friends," said Lowry.
One thing that will help is knowing Sabani is on their side.
"I can, with absolute confidence, pass him a ball and know that he will deliver and that's a huge relief on the team," said Lowry.
The Hodags will host Amherst in a sectional semifinal on Thursday at 3:30 p.m.