By Greg Bates
SUAMICO – Another season is in the books for Fox River Classic Conference (FRCC) boys’ soccer and another title was captured by Bay Port.
The Pirates and coach Travis Herber captured a fourth straight championship by not losing an FRCC match this season. In fact, Bay Port has now gone 36 straight conference games without a loss.
“For 18 years, you build up a program to do the best that you can and so four straight years of doing this has been phenomenal,” Herber said.
Bay Port scored the conference-clinching win by downing visiting Green Bay Preble 4-0 on Thursday night.
Herber has now won six FRCC titles to go along with one in the Bay Conference during his tenure as Bay Port coach.
“Four in a row, it’s special,” said Bay Port senior Garrett Solcz, who has been a part of the last two titles. “You don’t got a program that does that very often, so we’ll for sure take this.”
Bay Port had an interesting preseason as 2021 FRCC Player of the Year Ryan Amond opted to skip his senior year to compete for an MLS Next squad. Also, a couple other contributors for last year’s team, including Luke Bantamoi, played elsewhere this season.
But those departures didn’t shake Herber’s confidence that his guys could capture another conference crown.
“Were we as good as we could have been? No. But the guys that are still here are still good,” Herber said. “You just take the different pieces of the puzzle and move them into spots that they wouldn’t have traditionally been here if those gentlemen would have been here. So, at the end of the day, you just put the talent in the right spot and let them play, let them go and that’s exactly what we did this year. A couple of pieces got moved around and the rest is history — four straight championships.”
With the weather conditions not being ideal, Herber wasn’t sure how the game was going to pan out. Against rival Preble, sometimes anything can happen.
“With it being rainy and cold, I was a little nervous that the weather could have an impact,” Herber said. “Sometimes the weather kind of levels things out, but I knew we were the better team based on statistics and seeing them play on tape. But that’s a young team over there, and that’s going to be us next year. I’m graduating 11 seniors. (Preble coach Chris Becker) graduated I don’t know how many seniors last year, so they’re in a rebuilding year and that’s us next year. So at the end of the day, I knew we could take care of business on our own home field and we’d walk away with four straight championships.”
Bay Port (7-0-2 FRCC) jumped on Preble (4-3-2 FRCC) early.
Solcz notched his first goal just 7:55 into the game. That ended up being the winner.
“I just saw the keeper come out of the box and I just took my opportunity and shot and it ended up rolling in,” Solcz said.
Fellow senior Will Schlueter put the Pirates up 2-0 midway through the opening period.
But even with a two-goal cushion, Bay Port’s offense was relentless and its defense was stifling.
“You can’t let up,” Herber said. “You’ve got to continue to play your same style of soccer, whether it’s 1-0, 0-0, 2-0. You’ve got to continue to play for 80 minutes and your style. For a while there we were getting a little bit of long ball, which sometimes when you get up like that you want to play it safe and send the ball out of your defensive half. But we knew at the end of the day if we could start to slow things down and play our style of soccer, possession and build up, we will have a good chance to do good things in regionals.”
Solcz scored a pair of second-half goals to log a hat trick in the biggest game of the season. He’s tallied hat tricks at the varsity level, but this one was more special.
Herber likes how his midfielder has been battling all season.
“He’s probably our best chance to score, but you can’t take that away from either Josh Howe or Coby Gillespie,” Herber said. “I’ve got three guys that put a lot of pressure on their defense, and Garrett, when he gets a chance to put the ball in the net, he’s going to put the ball in the net. It’s no different than Josh Howe or Coby. At the end of the day, it was his night. Next game it might be Josh’s, next night it might be Coby’s.”
Up next for Bay Port now is the postseason. It earned the No. 5 in a very tough sectional. The top four seeds are all ranked in the top eight in the state in Division 1 in the latest Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Poll. Brookfield East, ranked No. 1, is the top seed, No. 3-ranked Sussex Hamilton is seeded second and No. 5-ranked Arrowhead is second fourth.
“The section’s for sure tough,” Solcz said. “A 5 seed, I don’t quite agree with it, but we’re still going to go in there and try to do our best.”
Herber likes how his team is playing right now heading into the playoffs.
“Guys are stepping up at the right times,” Herber said. “Underclassmen that are getting more playing time are stepping up. So once you get to this point, I’ve been the number one seed and gotten knocked, so we’re number five going in and we’re going to have a little bit tougher road, if we get past the 12, we’re going to have to play the 4, and I feel good about Arrowhead. It’s going to be a very tough game there, if we get to them. Then we will eventually have to play the number one seed, if we get there, too. At the end of the day, throw all the records out. It’s whoever is playing their best soccer, and let the ball bounce the way it’s supposed to bounce.”
By Greg Bates