Aiming for gold: state soccer preview
The Bay Port girls’ soccer team is making their second consecutive trip to the WIAA D1 state tournament (Rich Palzewic photo).
BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – The Bay Port girls’ soccer team was just happy to be at the WIAA D1 state tournament a year ago, but this year they want more.
After the Pirates beat Muskego 1-0 in the state semis in 2017, they lost to Brookfield Central in the championship game by a 3-0 score.
The No. 1 state ranked Pirates (22-1) will open up the 2018 state tournament with a 7:00 game Thursday, June 14, against No. 5 Kettle Moraine (10-2-5) at the Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
“I think last year we honestly were just happy to get there,” said Bay Port head coach Brooke Mraz, who won her 175th career game as head coach this past weekend at sectionals. “We didn’t have a lot of expectations going into things. This year is different … we feel we have the makeup on the team to play with anyone.”
Despite its No. 1 Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association (WSCA) ranking – which was from two weeks ago as the season was winding down – the Pirates are the No. 2 seed in the four-team state tournament. Fox River Classic Conference rival Sheboygan North, who is ranked No. 3 in the state, has the one seed.
Once the tournament field was set after sectionals, coaches met to determine the seeds of the final teams, with North (20-1-1) and No. 4 Muskego (13-3-2) squaring off in the other semifinal.
The winners of the two semifinal games will play on Saturday, June 16, at 1:35 for the state championship.
“We expected to get the No. 1 or 2 seed,” Mraz said. “In all fairness to North, they lost just a single game all season similar to us, beat Arrowhead who was ranked No. 2 and they beat us earlier in the season (1-0). It wasn’t a huge surprise the way it played out.”
According to Mraz, Kettle Moraine plays excellent competition in the Classic Eight Conference (including perennial power Catholic Memorial), so their record is a little deceiving. They are a consistent team that has more balance, so the Pirates won’t be able to focus on just one player.
“There is a little bit of ease knowing we don’t have to focus on one player as a big threat,” said Mraz. “It gives us an opportunity to walk in and say ‘we’re going to play our game and play them straight up.’ We need to capitalize on the opportunities we are given and play solid zone defense … we can’t give up any fluke goals. I feel we have an explosive offense when we are on, but it’s also tough to score on us when our defense is sound.”
On the other hand, North is very defensive. They allowed just eight goals all season and only one in conference play. Like Bay Port, they have 13 shutouts this season. They are a veteran team who relies on their pressure defense, but their offensive output is far less than what the Pirates put up.
Muskego is a very young team who assistant coach Michael Bootz predicted could be at the state tournament for the next four years running. This is their fifth consecutive trip to Milwaukee.
“With this grouping of four, I think it will be a really interesting state tournament,” Mraz noted. “Everyone deserves to be there and I think it’s anyone’s gold ball.”
Bay Port won the sectional final game this past Saturday in Wausau on a natural-grass field, but is happy to get back on the turf in Milwaukee.
“We like the fast-paced action of turf,” added Mraz. “It gives us an advantage, but it also depends on the team we play. If you’re used to playing on turf like we are, to go back-and-forth between the two surfaces slows the game down significantly … especially if the grass isn’t manicured like a putting green. For us, because of the style and the speed that we play with, turf is definitely much more conducive.”
Mraz noted that Eau Claire Memorial’s second goal from the 4-2 sectional final game was in large part due to playing on grass and the slowness of it.
Notes: Bay Port is making its fourth trip to the state tournament, while North will be making its first-ever appearance.
Follow thepress.media to view updates of the state tournament.