To get back to the WIAA State Tournament, the defending Division-4 state champion St. Joseph girls soccer team faced a tall order in a sectional final Saturday afternoon.
Standing between the third-seeded Lancers — ranked sixth in Division-4 in the final WisSports.net state coaches poll — and a return trip to state was top-seeded and top-ranked Racine Prairie.
St. Joseph had its chances, but ultimately Prairie put a stop to the Lancers’ remarkable two-season run by pulling away for a 6-1 win at Prairie and earning a trip to the State Tournament, scheduled for Thursday through Saturday in Milwaukee.
The Prairie Hawks scored in the 10th and 18th minutes Saturday to grab a quick 2-0 lead, but then came the key portion of the match.
Over the next 20 minutes, St. Joseph coach Gino Alia said, the Lancers earned three corner kicks and three direct kicks but couldn’t score.
Then, at the 38-minute mark, the Hawks played a long ball past the back line, and Kate McPhee slotted the ball past St. Joseph goalie Ellie Mandli to make it 3-0. McPhee scored again on a counter just before halftime for a 4-0 lead, which was pretty much a back-breaker.
“We had some bad breaks early on and dug ourselves into a hole,” Alia said. “After the first 20 minutes, we settled down a bit, and we were able to create some quality chances. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have any luck.
“At one point, we had a ball past Prairie’s goalie and within a foot of the the goal line, and we came away empty. That happens. If we find the net, it becomes a 2-1 game and momentum shifts. The third goal was probably the biggest blow, because it really caused us to lose our aggressiveness on the offensive end.”
Cate Patterson added two goals for Prairie in the second half. St. Joseph got on the board when freshman Elizabeth Russert headed in a corner kick from junior Elizabeth Alia.
But the Lancers’ season came to an end on the same field they defeated Racine St. Catherine’s in a sectional final last year to punch their ticket to state, where they won it all.
“While this wasn’t the outcome we wanted, it doesn’t take away from the excellent season these girls have had,” said Alia.
Prairie, which features 10 seniors, will make its seventh state appearance and first since 2016, when the Hawks won the Division-4 title.
Kenosha native Andrea Palmen is a starting defender for Prairie.
Muskego 4, Bradford 0
The third-seeded Red Devils fell behind early and couldn’t catch up to the top-seeded and host Warriors in a Division-1 sectional final.
Muskego scored in the sixth minute and went up 2-0 on a penalty kick. The score remained that way at halftime, but the Warriors found the net twice more in the second half.
“Tonight we got outpaced to start the game, and they put a lot of pressure on us,” Bradford coach David Naylor said. “... (In the) second half we matched their energy, and we missed several big shots early in the half that could have changed the game.”
Bradford, ranked No. 9 in Division-1 in the final WisSports.net state coaches poll, fell a game shy of its first State Tournament berth since 2010.
Muskego, meanwhile, will head to state for the sixth year in a row.
“We are super excited with where our program is and where it is headed,” Naylor said. “The last two years, to make the sectional final, is great for us. We have a lot of young talent at key positions, so we want to keep us playing at a high level.
“(I’m) super happy of the play tonight of seniors Kim Lopez, Kaylin Hughes, Anika Katt, Dani Bauman and Ally Slomkowski. Along with injured senior Sophie Loeffler, these six seniors have really helped our program progress the last four years with their dedication and skill.”