Bay Port senior goalie Gabby Noack watches a ball at a recent practice. Noack was second-team all-conference a season ago for the Pirates.
BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – There’s not much further the Bay Port girls’ soccer can move up, but they’re hoping for one more step this season.
Coming off a record-breaking year where they made it all the way to the WIAA D1 state finals, the Pirates are primed to bring a gold ball back this time around.
“Expectations are high but they should be,” said head coach Brooke Mraz, who was named the Fox River Classic Conference coach of the year in 2017. “We have a lot of veteran and younger talent mixed together – it will be an exciting year. Whereas last season we might have snuck up on teams, that won’t happen now … we will get everyone’s best effort. We have to approach this season as a new season and we can’t bank on our success from last year. I think that will be our biggest challenge … handling the success we had and staying hungry.”
Bay Port, the No. 4 ranked team in the preseason state polls this year, beat Muskego in the state semis 1-0 before dropping a 3-0 contest to Brookfield Central in the championship game. According to Mraz, Central has dropped down to D2 this year, but that doesn’t mean the Pirates’ run to state got much easier.
“There are some very strong teams in the state,” Mraz said. “I know Kimberly, Arrowhead and Muskego will be very good. Our schedule is tougher this year than last.”
Before their magical run at state in Milwaukee, Bay Port tied with Green Bay Notre Dame atop the FRCC (8-0-1) and finished 24-3-1 overall. They entered the finals with a 15-game winning streak.
The Pirates lost just five seniors due to graduation, but a few were difference makers. Amber Freeman (11 goals, 10 assists), who was the FRCC defensive player of the year, and Peyton Piontek (9 goals, 1 assist – honorable mention) are gone, as are Colleen Torzala (0, 3), Savannah Klein (2, 1) and Katie Anderson (0, 2).
“Amber was definitely a difference maker,” noted Mraz about her senior captain from a year ago. “We have a very strong system, so I think we will have younger players step right in. We are hoping the transition is seamless, as a lot of our players are very versatile.”
One of those younger players looking to replace Freeman in the back is sophomore Alaina Abel, who Mraz noted is already getting looked at by D1 colleges. Abel was also named to the defensive first-team in the recently-completed basketball season.
Senior Erika Hess is the top returning scorer. She had a stellar 2017 with her 24 goals and 5 assists on her way to a first-team FRCC selection.
Other returning seniors with varsity experience are Gabby Noack (goalie, second team), Alexis Brunette (2, 0), Autumn Lakari (0, 4 – honorable mention), Cora Klemme, Greta Urban, Erin Ross (2, 3), Ariel Kuchta (5, 6), Sofia Draghicchio (1, 6) and Anna Gulan (1, 6).
Returning juniors Megan Nygaard (goalie), Grace Krause (1, 1), Macy Ortner and Katy Kane (2, 0) will add upper-classmen depth and experience.
A talented sophomore class that just made a run at reaching the state tournament in basketball will be leaned on heavily as well to keep Bay Port right at the top. Emma Nagel (15, 6 – second team), McKenzie Johnson (9, 4 – second team) and Abel (second team) all return after being on varsity last year.
New varsity players are juniors Maya Jacques and Delaney Wahl, plus freshmen Hailey Kane and Mara Gustafson.
Mraz said the FRCC is very strong in the top-five spots. Notre Dame, Green Bay Preble, De Pere and Sheboygan North should all be near the top with Bay Port.
The Pirates open up the season Tuesday, Apr. 3, when they travel to Oshkosh West for a non-conference game beginning at 7:00.
Notes: The Pirates trip to state last season was their first since 2010 … Their conference title last year was their first since 2008.
2018 Bay Port Girls Soccer Schedule
4/3 – @ Oshkosh West – 7:00
4/6 – @ Madison Memorial Invite – 5:00
4/7 – @ Madison Memorial Invite – 11:00
4/10 – Appleton East – 6:30
4/12 – West De Pere – 6:30
4/17 – Green Bay Notre Dame – 6:30
4/19 – @ Appleton West – 7:00
4/21 – @ Wausau West – 9:00
4/21 – @ Wausau East – 11:00
4/24 – @ Ashwaubenon – 6:30
4/27 – @ De Pere Invite – TBA
4/28 – @ De Pere Invite (Sun Prairie) – 12:30
5/1 – @ Sheboygan North – 6:30
5/3 – Sheboygan South – 6:30
5/5 – Appleton North – 11:00
5/8 – Green Bay Southwest – 6:30
5/11 – @ Manitowoc Lincoln – 6:30
5/15 – Pulaski – 6:30
5/17 – Green Bay Preble – 6:30
5/18 – @ D.C. Everest Invite – 6:00
5/19 – @ D.C. Everest Invite – 9:00
5/22 – @ De Pere – 6:30
5/31 – WIAA Regionals – TBA
6/2 – WIAA Regionals – TBA
6/7 – WIAA Sectionals – TBA
6/9 – WIAA Sectionals – TBA
6/14 – @ WIAA State Semifinals – TBA
6/16 – @ WIAA State Finals – TBA