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Redbirds survive, advance to face Papermakers

By Tori Wittenbrock
Associate Sports Editor

De Pere’s Adaiah Rezachek battles for the ball with Preble’s Yesenia Zacarias in the midfield. Tori Wittenbrock photos

DE PERE – In a heated battle on Tuesday, May 28, the Green Bay Preble Hornets (9-4-3 overall, 4-3-2 conf.) and the De Pere Redbirds (11-6-6 overall, 6-1-2 conf.) faced off in their WIAA Regional game that came down to a penalty kick in the last 20 seconds that would send De Pere forward in their postseason with a 2-1 final score. 

On a rain-soaked field, the Redbirds managed to come from behind and put up a hard-fought battle to advance to take on the Kimberly Papermakers — a team that beat them 5-0 earlier in the season. 

“They’ve got quality all over the field and all over their roster. They have two players up top — Senah (Hanes) and (Emily) McCarthy — obviously very talented players. We are going to have to try and slow them down. They wear teams down, so for us, we are going to have to play our best defensive game and capitalize on the few chances that we do create, said De Pere Head Coach Sarah Hagen. 

A chip ball into the box by Preble’s Samantha Thompson posed an early threat for De Pere keeper Jocelyn Blahnik as she bobbled the save just eight minutes into the match. 

However, De Pere retaliated not long after with a shot from far out by Joleigh Blahnik that slipped just wide of the net. 

De Pere’s Alexa Spaeth was able to get off a negative cross leading up to Blahnik’s left-footed rip that soared just over the net in the 13th minute, giving De Pere an offensive spark. 

The Hornets continued to put pressure on the Redbirds when Johanna Thompson was in position for a 1v1, forcing Blahnik to come off of her line to cut off the angle. 

Though Thompson was able to touch the ball past Blahnik, a shot into the side netting kept the score at 0-0 in the 25th minute. 

Preble’s Yesenia Zacarias found space in the midfield and had a shot from far out that fell into Blahnik’s hands but kept up the high intensity. 

De Pere’s Amelia Schuh then had a shot just over the net in the 35th minute after the Redbirds offense moved the ball around the box, possessing in the attack. 

The score remained 0-0 going into halftime.

Rezachek scored the equalizer for the Redbirds to give them the spark they needed to beat Green Bay Preble 2-1 to advance to face the Kimberly Papermakers.

Hagan said that she was most proud of how her team showed up in the second half. 

“Just the fight that we played with in the second half. Obviously the conditions weren’t great,” said Hagan. “The field being flooded with water kind of eliminated any ability for both teams to try to combine. In the second half, it really just became who wanted it more.” 

Preble continued to focus on possessing out of the back as they entered the second half, though the intensity was notably higher. 

Blahnik chipped the ball into the box in the 43rd minute to Schuh for a breakaway but her shot ended up in Preble’s goalkeeper Addison Strauss’s hands. 

De Pere continued to keep their foot on the gas, keeping the ball in Preble’s half for the first ten minutes of the second half. 

However, in the 49th minute, Olivia Wiernasz launched a shot into the far post corner past Blahnik giving Preble a 1-0 lead. 

“I’m proud of how they responded. Their response wasn’t to give up — it was to fight back,” said Hagen. 

The intensity of the match increased as De Pere continued to be relentless in the attack feeding continual through balls to Schuh and Spaeth for shots. 

Spaeth was brought down in the box in an attempt to get a shot off but no penalty kick was called in the 54th minute. 

De Pere freshman Adaiah Rezachek rang the crossbar in the 58th minute causing havoc for Strauss, but she managed to make the save. 

In the 65th minute, De Pere fired off a series of shots from their attackers in the box but Preble’s defense held strong. 

The Redbirds finally got what they had been working for when a far out shot was launched past Strauss by Rezachek for an equalizer in the 66th minute. 

Both teams continued to scramble to find the back of the net for the remaining 20 minutes of the game. 

After a shot landed in Strauss’s hands, Preble quickly countered in the attack by sending Wiernasz on a breakaway in the 75th minute. 

However, with just 20 seconds remaining in the game, an unlucky foul in the box gave Schuh a penalty kick in the 80th minute. 

Schuh passed the ball into the back of the net in the 80th minute to send her team forward with a 2-1 victory. 

The Redbirds will advance to play the Kimberly Papermakers in the next round of the postseason. 

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