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Late flurry sends De Pere soccer to sectional final

By Greg Bates

DE PERE – For just over 93 minutes Thursday night, neither the De Pere or Appleton North girls’ soccer teams could score.

The tension and high stakes of playing in a Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association (WIAA) Division 1 sectional semifinal weighed heavily on the players.

Top-seeded De Pere finally scored in double overtime — which isn’t sudden death, according to WIAA postseason rules — but No. 3-seeded Appleton North responded.

The Redbirds weren’t going to be denied.

They punched in a second goal, courtesy of sophomore Amelia Schuh, and cranked up the defense as De Pere held on for a 2-1 victory in double overtime.

The win advances De Pere to its first sectional final since 2015.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been here, so it’s exciting to be back,” De Pere Head Coach Andy Steger said. “We did it in an exciting manner. We’ve worked hard, and we’ve had some great competition. We knew Appleton North – great coaches, great players, we knew we were in for a dogfight tonight and we definitely were. I’m proud of the girls and the plan we put together to keep moving forward and find a way to finish it off.”

Schuh said the win was huge for the program.

De Pere
Amelia Schuh

“I’m pumped,” she said. “We knew we had the ability to get this far. I think it was more of could we do it. This is huge for us to be able to make it to the sectional final.”

De Pere (20-2-3) had a number of solid opportunities to bury a goal in regulation, but North (14-6-2) played well defensively.

In the second overtime, the Redbirds were awarded a free kick just outside North’s 18-yard box.

De Pere called a set-piece where five girls stack up behind the ball and the defense doesn’t know which player is either going to pass or shoot the ball.

De Pere midfielder Greta Czachor was last in the line of five, and when she moved up to the ball, she passed it to her left to Claire Bradford.

The junior ripped a shot past North goalie Hannah Baer 3:18 into the second extra session.

“We’ve been working on it all season,” Bradford said. “We spend the last half hour of practice every day working on our set plays, so it’s nice to see it pay off and be able to pull it off in a game. The wall broke apart and they were coming at me hard, so I didn’t have any room to slot the ball back, so that’s why I took a shot instead.”

De Pere
Claire Bradford

Steger said he was excited to watch the play develop and the ball go into the net.

He gave all the credit to his players for determining how they were going to run the play.

“If one of them feels like, listen, I’m going to bury this thing, and oftentimes it’s been Greta Czachor, but Amelia can do the same thing,” Steger said. “It’s up to Greta. She makes the decision and tells the team what we’re going to do.”

After the goal, it was sheer joy from the De Pere players and its sidelines.

But the smiles were short-lived.

De Pere couldn’t clear the ball out of its defensive zone and North scored 40 seconds after the Redbirds’ goal.

“We were so excited to get up, and then I think part of rode on that,” Schuh said. “Myself, I know I was like, ‘Oh my God, we’re going to do it.’ Then I’m like, ‘Oh, they scored.’ Then coming back, I was like, ‘We have to do this. We have to do this.’”

Well, Schuh got her opportunity.

She found the ball on her foot in the box and struck a nice shot, scoring with 4:08 remaining on the clock.

“When regulation time was done, we talked about the keeper — and she was talented — but a few balls were loose, and how we had to keep following up,” Schuh said. “In that moment, I’m like, follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. The ball was laid out perfectly, I think Greta shot it. It was just right there.”

De Pere’s defense did the rest, keeping North at bay to run out the clock for the victory.

“It’s a lot of momentum and beating a team as good as Appleton North, now we know that anybody else, it’s going to be a tough game,” Bradford said. “We know we can play well in tough games.”

De Pere will now face Eau Claire Memorial (12-3-4) in a Division 1 sectional final in Marshfield Saturday at 1 p.m.

Steger said his team will have to do a lot of the same as it did in beating North if it wants to advance to state.

“We need to be a little bit better early on,” Steger said. “We got into playing too direct, we didn’t build up the way we need to. Once we settled down and figured out how to play again, that’s what created opportunities for us. … We’re going to have to create opportunities, and I think we will. It’s just a matter that we have to finish them off.”

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