By Murray Gleffe
GREEN BAY – There was only one goal scored last season in the WIAA Division 3 State Championship girls’ soccer game between Notre Dame Academy and Catholic Memorial.
That honor went to Tritons forward Jenna Cuene, who is the top returnee from a team that went 17-5-1 and brought home a state title.
“It was a special season last year,” said Notre Dame head coach, Bob Rickards. “It first starts with the school in creating a great atmosphere. Second, it takes kids that are dedicated and care about the program. Lastly, you surround yourself with great coaches, which I, fortunately, have to continue the tradition.”
It was a historic year for the Fox River Classic Conference that produced two state champions and a runner-up in any classification.
FRCC rival Bay Port won the Division 1 crown over another conference team, Sheboygan North.
“I don’t feel bad at all finishing third in our conference last year,” said Rickards. “Having played Bay Port and Sheboygan North I think helped us prepare for the final couple of games despite being in different divisions for state. Getting to Milwaukee last year was a boost for our confidence, and then getting over the hill of beating Catholic Memorial was huge.”
If the Tritons are to reign in another state title, they will have to do so without arguably two of the better players to have played at Notre Dame in recent history in Grace Shaw and Trudy Quidzinski.
Quidzinski currently plays at Northern Illinois, while Shaw is attending Michigan Tech University.
The two accounted for 153 points with 59 goals scored last year as seniors.
“We went to state three out of the four years those two athletes were here,” added Rickards. “Grace and Trudy were program-changers. They scored 50 percent of the goals despite being marked in every game.”
Besides Cuene, Notre Dame returns key pieces in Keighley Blindauer, Lucy Quidzinski, Izzy Kellner and Claire Noble.
The Tritons also return goaltender Alana Bergin, who allowed just 27 goals last season (1.17 GAA) while recording 13 shutouts.
A number of talented freshmen, sophomore and junior players will also add scoring depth.
In addition to Cuene scoring in the state championship game, Kellner tallied a goal versus Brookfield Central during the regular season.
Central ended up winning the Division 2 state championship.
Have the goals and philosophies changed for Notre Dame despite losing so much firepower?
“We carry a motto every year,” added Rickards. “It’s very simple – win a game, win the conference and win state. Get better each time despite the outcome and finish stronger than what we started.”
Despite having around 25 percent of the soccer season canceled last year, this year’s season is shaping up to start on schedule.
“You always want the weather to help you, but you can’t control Mother Nature,” Rickards said. “We try to keep the kids focused, continue to build and try to do what you can with each practice wherever that might be.”
With many players back, Bay Port goes into the season as a heavy favorite to capture the FRCC championship, with Notre Dame and Sheboygan North right behind.
However, De Pere, Green Bay Preble and Pulaski could be three teams that are waiting in the wings to make a move and potentially surprise some people.
“Obviously, the Pirates will be strong,” Rickards noted. “They just won a state basketball championship and have some kids on that team playing soccer. The Golden Raiders historically have always been good. The Redbirds and Red Raiders have been building for quite some time.”
Complete schedules can be found at foxriverclassicconference.com.
Notre Dame Roster
No. 1 Alana Bergin, No. 2 Maggie Thilman, No. 3 Riley VandenHouten, No. 4 Ellese Martin, No. 5 Emily Lin, No. 6 Bryn Danen, No. 7 Charlie Apple, No. 8 Libby Rickards, No. 11 Emily Noble, No. 12 Keighley Blindauer, No. 13 Hannah Bressers, No. 15 Sophia Woodward, No. 16 Sarah Hardwick, No. 17 Sydney VanWychen, No. 19 Jenna Cuene, No. 20 Lucy Quidzinski, No. 21 Brelyn McCarron, No. 22 Izzy Kellner, No. 23 Claire Noble.