The directive was simple. The execution was stunning.
Catholic Memorial boys golf coach Steve Plechaty had a request of his Crusaders at the second day of the WIAA Division 2 state championship at University Ridge Tuesday. Plechaty couldn't have imagined it going so remarkably well.
'The whole key was putting some pressure on the other teams in front of us,' said Plechaty, whose team was in third place after the first round. 'Instead of feeling pressure, we talked about putting on the pressure.'
The Crusaders did exactly that. And today, they're state champions.
Catholic Memorial shot a blistering 303 on the final day — its second-lowest total of the season — and rallied to win its third state title in four years and fifth championship since 2005.
The Crusaders had shot a disappointing 318 on day one and entered the second round five shots behind first place Appleton Xavier and three back of second place Marinette. But CMH finished at 621, well ahead of runner-up Madison Edgewood (633), third-place Lodi (637), and first-day leader Xavier (639).
'The tradition here is so important,' said sophomore Josh Rowinski, who finished third individually with a 7-over-par, 151. 'CMH's integrity is that we fight. So you can never count us out. Coming back is our thing to do.'
That's for sure.
In each of the Crusaders' five state championships, they've never held the first-day lead. When Catholic Memorial won state titles in 2005, 2013 and 2014, it was in second place after day one. The 2006 and 2016 state championship teams were in third place after the opening round.
That's why the Crusaders weren't overly concerned after struggling during their first round.
'This is a new group, but they know it can be done,' Plechaty said. 'They can definitely do it. They left a lot of strokes out there and they'll come back a lot more relaxed.'
They did. And in the process, the Crusaders put a lot of pressure on the teams above them.
Catholic Memorial shot 4-over-par as a team on its first six holes. Xavier, meanwhile was plus-16, and Marinette was plus-15. In just more than an hour of real time, the Crusaders had wrestled away control of the tournament.
'We were completely confident coming in here,' senior Ian Tisonik said. 'We've done this before. We had no doubts in our minds that we were going to come back.'
The key to the Crusaders' surge was the play of Rowinski and senior Michael Immekus.
Rowinski was tied for ninth individually after an opening round 77. Afterwards, Rowinski said his second-day goal was to beat that score by one. He sold himself short and shot a final round 74.
'Individually, I'm stoked, to be honest with you,' Rowinski said. 'But when it comes down to it, it was all for the team. Until I got off the course, I had no idea how I was doing individually.'
Immekus, the Player of the Year in the Classic 8 Conference, struggled with an 8-over-par, 44 on his first nine of the tournament. Immekus then made a remarkable turnaround and played his next 27 holes at even par.
On Tuesday, Immekus' putter was lights out. He made birdie putts of 15 feet at No. 1, 20 feet at No. 10, 25 feet at No. 14 and 10 feet at No. 15.
'We were really confident coming into the day,' Immekus said. 'We had a great team atmosphere, because everyone played pretty well on their second nine (Monday). We had a lot of confidence.'
The Crusaders also counted a second day 77 from senior Ian Tisonik and an 80 from senior Alec Sheaffer.
One year ago, the Crusaders came to University Ridge in search of a third straight state title but settled for third place. The Crusaders standout seniors — Immekus, Tisonek and Sheaffer — felt largely responsible, then did something about it this time through.
'It's kind of bittersweet leaving Catholic Memorial,' Immekus said. 'We have such a good golf team and it's so fun.
'It's awesome to end on this note, but it's also sad that it's finally over. But this ending was awesome. We knew we going to back and play well.'