Another year, more déjà vu for Catholic Memorial girls soccer.
The Crusaders (23-2-1) are going back to the state tournament for the ninth straight season, and they did it just as they did last year, with a 2-1 win over Grafton (9-9-2) in the Division 3 sectional final at Pewaukee on Saturday night.
“The goal every year is to win state,” Catholic Memorial head coach John Burke said. “We don’t talk about any other kind of championship: conference, regionals, sectionals or any of that. The next title for us would tie us for the most WIAA titles. We have six; Whitefish Bay has seven. We have three WISAA titles, so we have the most overall, but we want all the records.”
The Crusaders will face Xavier (18-4) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. Thursday.
While the trip to state might be something of a routine by now, this one didn’t come easily. The Crusaders were counting on Nicole Piette, who’s missed the last month with an ankle injury, and sophomore star Emily Cervantes spent the morning battling illness and wasn’t expected to play at all.
Piette played 65 gritty minutes on a heavily taped ankle. Cervantes did suit up and scored a goal in the 34th minute to give Memorial a 2-0 lead, but she missed the entire second half.
“We didn’t think Emily would be able to play at all,” Burke said. “She didn’t warm up. She decided to try and she went out and gave what she could. She just couldn’t play in the second half. She was drained. Nicole playing that much time on a bad ankle is the kind of thing that brings a team together.”
Losing Cervantes proved to be a blow to the offense, but no championship team is built on one player, and Memorial leaned on its strong supporting cast to finish the job.
“We thought it would be a bummer if she couldn’t play at all, obviously,” Memorial senior Tori Hodrowski said. “She’s our best goal scorer. But this is a deep team. We just had to keep playing hard. We didn’t really talk about it once she went out. We just knew it was time to step up.”
Grafton senior Zoie Bauer made things interesting when she cut the deficit to 2-1 in the 45th minute, but Memorial’s stingy defense yielded few opportunities the rest of the way.
Senior Crissi From, who put Memorial on top with a penalty kick in the seventh minute, said the game was symbolic of a season in which the Crusaders relied less on experience and more on teamwork. With injuries and illness mounting, more contributions were needed.
“This year has been a little difficult because we have a lot of younger girls,” From said. “No matter how many minutes you get, you’ve got to go out on the field and play your hearts out.”
The Crusaders have their sights set on a third-straight state championship, what would be their fourth in the last five seasons. Burke told his seniors early in the season that the chance of losing a game this season was higher than in years past and noted that some of his players had never experienced a loss until this year.
“The ninth straight year to go to state – it’s breathtaking,” he said. “And every year, they keep finding new ways to do it.”
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