BY RICH PALZEWIC
MILWAUKEE – Today, tomorrow and forever, the Bay Port girls’ soccer team will be known as the 2018 WIAA D1 state champion.
The No. 1 state ranked Pirates beat Fox River Classic Conference rival Sheboygan North 3-1 on Saturday, June 16, at the Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee on a blistering, hot day.
It’s the program’s first state title and the school’s fourth overall after the baseball team won back-to-back championships in 2009-10, and the boys’ track and field team took home a title in 2015.
The victory also avenged the Pirates’ only loss of the season, after the Golden Raiders (21-2-1) won a 1-0 game earlier in the year in Sheboygan.
“Sheboygan North controlled much of the first half,” said Bay Port head coach Brooke Mraz. “We started off a bit frantic and were playing very defensive. North brought three forwards up on us and we weren’t expecting that. That high press forced us to play more of a defensive game, but we reminded the girls at halftime that’s not how we play. We started off nervous, which actually made us more tired.”
When discussing her team’s regular-season game earlier in the year with North, Mraz noted that the smallness of the field in Sheboygan affected her team.
“We are a team who likes the open space and the quickness of turf,” Mraz said about that game. “(Assistant coach Mike) Bootz and I felt that if we ever got the chance to play them again, they would have to score more than one goal to beat us.”
The three goals allowed to the Pirates were the most they gave up in any one game all season.
Despite the slow start, Bay Port (24-1-0) got on the board first in the 22nd minute from a McKenzie Johnson corner kick that went directly into the net untouched past North goalie Meredith Opie. It was the second time this season that the right-footed sophomore has scored off a corner kick unassisted.
The Pirates had two other great scoring chances in the first half … one on an Erika Hess left-footed shot in the 16th minute from point-blank range, and the other on a ball that Johnson got behind the defense with, but a “pass” to herself upfield was a bit too long, allowing Opie to barely beat her to the ball.
The senior Hess blasted a bicycle-looking kick for a goal from just outside the penalty box in the 49th minute to make it 2-0 Bay Port, but the Golden Raiders scored 45 seconds later to make it a one-goal game again.
“In the second half we came out much better,” noted Mraz. “Once we settled in and started playing our game, I was able to take a deep breath and let out a sigh of relief.”
Sophomore Emma Nagel ended any doubt of a North comeback when she tallied in the 82nd minute to close the scoring.
Bay Port was outshot by a 16-8 margin, but the shots on goal were even at six apiece. Each team had three corner kicks.
Senior goalie Gabby Noack made five saves for the Pirates.
Temperatures throughout the game were well over 100 degrees on the synthetic playing surface.
The game also ended the illustrious careers of the 10 seniors on the team who Mraz brought up to the varsity when they were freshmen.
“I did take some flak for that,” added a smiling Mraz about her decision three years ago. “I just knew that they were a talented group that I wanted to bring up so we could start the process of building this team. They had a tough year as freshmen, but they have a special talent … not only with their work ethic, but they are also great leaders and human beings. We knew we had the chance to do this, but so much has to happen along the way for a team to actually win a state championship … I’m very emotional for the girls.”
The 10 seniors are Alexis Brunette, Sofia Draghicchio, Anna Gulan, Hess, Cora Klemme, Ariel Kuchta, Autumn Lakari, Noack, Erin Ross and Greta Urban.
Notes: Bay Port’s victory was the first-ever for a FRCC team in the championship game.
Green Bay Notre Dame, another FRCC team, won the D3 championship with a 1-0 victory over Catholic Memorial later in the evening.