Bay Port seniors leave lasting impression
BY RICH PALZEWIC
SUAMICO – The Bay Port girls’ soccer team has some tremendous young talent that will keep it in contention for years to come, but without this year’s senior group, it’s safe to say the Pirates wouldn’t have won the 2018 WIAA D1 state championship.
When head coach Brooke Mraz brought the 10 up early in their high-school careers, it probably wasn’t a popular choice among those on the team or in the community … but Bay Port’s 3-1 victory over Sheboygan North June 16, in the title game proved it was the right decision.
“I did take some flak (for bringing them up so early),”said a smiling Mraz after the state championship game. “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.”
The 10 seniors – Alexis Brunette, Sofia Draghicchio, Anna Gulan, Erika Hess, Cora Klemme, Ariel Kuchta, Autumn Lakari, Gabby Noack, Erin Ross and Greta Urban – all brought different things to the team.
If you’re looking for goal scoring, that came from Hess, who was named first-team all-conference in each of the last two years and was also named the Fox River Classic Conference offensive player of the year this season.
“This past season was definitely very memorable … not only winning state, but having such great teammates through it all,” said the forward Hess, who ended her career with 88 goals and 201 points. “There are no other girls I would have rather had this experience with. Having a team like this with coaches Mraz and (assistant coach Mike) Bootz was like having the gold ball all season; and it was made better by winning the gold ball physically together. It’s definitely something I’ll cherish the rest of my life.”
Brunette (second team, midfield), Gulan (second team, midfield) and the goalie Noack (honorable mention) also garnered all-conference honors this season.
The group will be known for their hard work, positive attitude and excellent leadership.
“They had a tough year as freshmen, but they had a special talent … not only with their work ethic, but they are also great leaders and human beings,” said Mraz. “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 seniors.”
The young players on the roster will get another chance to win more state championships – maybe even in basketball, too – but this was the last shot for the seniors.
“I remember early on in my varsity career being so timid and shy,” said Noack. “I don’t think I really understood what level we could compete at and how good we could really be. It doesn’t really feel real to be a state champion and to be honest, it hasn’t settled in yet. These girls have been a part of my life for the past four years and it’s so amazing we accomplished this together our senior year.”
Not only did this senior group help this year’s team take home the title, but they’ve helped the program for years to come. Many young girls in the communities of Howard and Suamico will now look at soccer differently, knowing that with hard work and determination, they too, can stand on top of the podium.
“Although our freshmen year was tough when simply looking at our record (10-12-2), it did help us to become a better team,” said Ross, who played midfield. “It’s hard to believe that we won state as seniors. We have come so far over the past four years, both on and off the field. I have made so many amazing friends throughout this journey, and becoming a state champ was the best possible way to end my career.”
Draghicchio would add: “It was scary being on varsity at first as a freshmen, but I knew I wasn’t alone with so many other girls that were on the team. It means so much to win a state championship because seeing our team grow from freshmen year, we’ve come so far and worked so hard for this … it felt so good to finally say we did it.”
One final note: For this season’s team, tomorrow when they wake up, they will be known as a state champion. Thirty years from now, they’ll still be able to say that. This is something special that can never be taken away from them.