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Young Guns

Head coach Jim Flores looks at seniors Jill Kussatz and Nicole Hertel and can think of one phrase.

Instant offense.

Together, the dynamic duo has accounted for the majority of West Fargos offense. Toss in senior midfielder Jo Haerter and that number rises to about 90 percent.

But Hertel and Kussatz can do more than just score, Flores said. Together, the two have a combined seven years of experience on the varsity squad. Both have had their setbacks with injuries and issues, but both have emerged this season to lead the Packers to the No. 3 seed at this weeks State Soccer Tournament, to be held in Minot.

Hertel has a hat trick in pair of games this season. Kussatz also has three multiple-goal caps to her credit, as well. Teams know that theyre the twosome that will get the job done for the Packer offense, yet no one has really found a way to stop it.

Our problem hasnt been scoring, and thats because these two are really strong finishers, Flores said. They know how and where to get the ball in the back of the net.

Hertel, it seems, has been doing it forever. Her sophomore season, the forward broke on to the season with five goals in the first six weeks of the season. She was an eye-opening surprise.

Last year, Kussatz took over as Hertel battled injuries and double-teams when she was healthy. The junior, who has played both at midfield and up front in her career, found a niche and made the all-state squad with her efforts on the soccer field.

They are as different as they are the same. Hertel is, what the kids would say, a bit alternative. Kussatz is a bit more mainstream. Hertels lone sport is soccer. Kussatz was key member of the girls basketball squad, which won the consolation championship in Grand Forks last March.

Together, theyre both looking to build on a program that has been to the brink, but really hasnt been able to make it over the hump at the State Tournament. It took Flores three trips to get his first win. Then, with Kelsey Gatz in goal, the team finally made it to the final four, placing fourth in 2003.

Since then, however, the team hasnt advanced beyond pool play.

This could be the year. The squad has just one loss against West Region competition, and thats to No. 1 Bismarck St. Marys. They were swept by Fargo North, but lost both games by a single goal. Fargo South is the only team, admittedly, to dominate the Packers this year.

Theyve had our number, Flores said. But both of their contests with North were one-goal games. Were close.

The Pack concluded the season on a high-note, avenging one of their regular season loses, a 5-3 loss to Shanley, with a 3-0 shutout of the Deacons.

Hertel and Kussatz combined on two of the three goals, both in the second half. Kayla Huso scored the game-winnner at the eight minute mark as the Packers dominated Shanley from the opening whistle.

I think we knew we let one get by last time, Flores said. We had the intensity we needed.

The State Tournament begins with pool play Thursday through Saturday. Final rounds will be played Saturday afternoon.