Wacholz goal moves Pulaski one step closer to state
By Greg Bates
PULASKI – Helped by a Joseph Wacholz goal, the sectional semifinal curse is over for the Pulaski boys’ soccer team.
In the previous three seasons – not including the alternate spring season earlier this year – the Red Raiders had advanced to sectionals but fell one step shy of advancing to the sectional final.
Not this season.
Pulaski registered a goal at the six-minute mark and then used stellar defense to hold off Green Bay Southwest 1-0 in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association Division 2 sectional semifinal on Thursday night in Pulaski.
“At this point in the season, it’s difficult to get wins,” Pulaski Head Coach Jeff Schneider said. “It was on display here tonight. Anybody who takes for granted these playoff games, the seeds don’t matter. (Southwest) put up a good fight. (Green Bay Southwest Head) Coach (Jay) Draves had them ready to go. I’m proud we could get the win. It only took one (goal), and it’s good to be moving on.”
The victory propelled top-seeded Pulaski to the sectional final against No. 3 River Falls Saturday, Nov. 1.
The game is at Pulaski at 1 p.m.
“I’m glad we could put one on the board early and be able to keep it out the rest of the game,” Wacholz, who tallied the game-winning goal, said. “I’m glad for us seniors we can continue playing.”
Pulaski dominated offensive possession and minimized how many touches Southwest got.
The Red Raiders’ defense was lights out.
All three of its playoff games have been shutouts, and they have seven wins this season while not allowing a goal.
“That backline has played well, and they’re passionate about it,” Schneider said. “They did their job and got it done. I’m glad they get to feel that accomplishment.”
Pulaski (14-6-2) put the pressure on Green Bay Southwest (4-12-2) early.
Austin Decker received a pass and dribbled wide before spotting Wacholz streaking into the box.
The senior got a pass on his foot and went top shelf, beating Trojans goalkeeper Alfonzo Frias for a goal.
“I saw (Decker) make a good move, and I knew he was going to play a ball across because he always does it – he’s done it all season,” Wacholz said.
Wacholz said he didn’t have a plan as to where he was going to place his shot.
“I simply didn’t want to miss,” he said.
And he didn’t.
Schneider called it a well-executed play.
“It’s something you work on in practice every day, something you do in games,” Schneider said. “Sometimes it doesn’t materialize. We happened to have the player in the right spot, the right ball and we finished it.”
After the game, Schneider said his players relaxed in the opening half after the goal.
However, Southwest never mounted much of a threat to score.
“I wanted us to keep pressing,” Schneider said. “We got back to it in the second half. I thought we were going to get that second one, but we hit the post.”
The game was more competitive than when the two teams met during the regular season when Pulaski scored a 3-0 victory Sept. 30.
From that point on, Draves said he wanted to shore up his team’s play.
Southwest will graduate five seniors of this year’s team, with two of those being starters – Frias and Hayden Rogers.
“From where they came from during the spring when we were 0-8-1 to getting a regional championship this year, it’s a good sign,” Draves said. “We’ve got to keep them working and keep them hungry to have that progress show up on the field next fall.”
Pulaski is now preparing for its sectional final where it will try and advance to state for the first time since 2014.
“It means a lot to me,” said Schneider, getting choked up. “I put a lot into it.”
Schneider’s players seem to understand their coach’s passion.
“I think they do,” Schneider said. “They did well, and I’m proud of them, the school and the community. I love having the opportunity to coach.”