The Bradford girls soccer team is once again a win away from its first WIAA Division-1 State Tournament appearance since going four years in a row from 2007-10.
But, once again, it won’t be easy.
In a sectional semifinal against city and Southeast Conference rival Indian Trail at Bradford Stadium on Thursday night, the top-seeded Red Devils scored once in each half and kept the third-seeded Hawks off the scoresheet en route to a 2-0 victory.
Next up for Bradford is a sectional final rematch 7 p.m. Saturday at Ameche Field against fellow top seed Muskego, which was ranked No. 3 in Division-1 in the latest state coaches poll and beat third-seeded Oak Creek, 7-0, in their sectional semifinal Thursday. The Warriors have reached the State Tournament six times in a row, interrupted only when last year’s season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Muskego beat Bradford in the sectional finals in 2018 and 2019, so it’ll be the third straight meeting between the teams in that round. The winner this time advances to the State Tournament, which for Division-1 will be played Thursday, June 24, at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
“It is so gratifying to make the sectional final for a third consecutive time, but our team is determined to make a third time the charm and beat Muskego,” Bradford coach David Naylor said after his team beat Indian Trail on Thursday. “It will be a monumental task, as Muskego is top-of-the-top in quality.
“It will take our best game to advance.”
The Red Devils played a good one Thursday and also got a good one from the Hawks. Bradford defeated Indian Trail, 5-0, in their lone regular-season meeting on May 27, but Naylor said he expected a closer match this time.
“I know (Indian Trail) coach (Drew) Baker well and knew that wouldn’t be the score line again,” Naylor said. “They have great coaching and fire and determination at Indian Trail, so I know we had to match their high intensity.”
After the Hawks held the Red Devils at bay for a while, Bradford got on the board in the 10th minute when Haley Christianson took a pass and drove to the end line. She fed a pass to a streaking Kate Brown, whose shot slammed the crossbar and came down what was ruled just inside the goal line for a 1-0 halftime lead.
The match stayed that way until the 77th minute, when senior captain Riley Strelow intercepted a pass in the attacking third of the field, maneuvered through two defenders one-on-one and fed a pass to Brown, who buried it for a two-goal cushion.
Brown enters the sectional finals tied for sixth in the state in goals with 31 and fifth in the state in points with 75, according to WisSports.net.
“Kate has been money for us this year, and again she stepped up big,” Naylor said.
Indian Trail threatened to cut into the lead a few minutes after Brown’s second goal with a penalty kick, but Carissa Phillips put it over the crossbar.
Naylor also cited the play of Nicole Johnson, Reaghan Spencer and Vaneza Aguilar on defense, as Bradford recorded its second straight postseason shutout.
For his part, despite the loss, Baker said it was a great match.
“The people that were there got their money’s worth, were able to watch great soccer and would be proud of Kenosha girls soccer,” he said.
Goalkeeper Rebecca Hannaman made 11 saves for the Hawks, who edged Tremper, 1-0, in a regional final last week Saturday for the first regional title in program history.
“We had 11 seniors this year, and I am so grateful for all that they have done for this program,” Baker said. “They are a wonderful group of young women that are going to move on to bigger, better things.
“I am very proud of how they left it all on the field and thank them for a great four years. They will be missed.”