Waukesha West has made it clear from the start of the season that its main goal this year is to win a state championship.
The Wolverines (20-1-2) inched one step closer to accomplishing that goal and left no doubt in doing so with a 4-0 victory over New Berlin West (12-10-2) on Saturday in the Division 2 WIAA sectional final at Whitefish Bay High School.
This victory marks Waukesha West's tenth trip to state since 2000 and puts the Wolverines only two wins away from winning a state title. But those final wins have proven elusive, and should the No. 1 team in the state win the crown, it would be the program's first.
'In order to win a state championship, you have to be there first,' Waukesha West coach David Zindler said. 'This wasn't our finest performance, but it was enough to get us through. We need to be better next weekend, but we plan to be better next weekend.'
Senior forward Dani Rhodes, the two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in Wisconsin, led the way for the Wolverines, registering a hat trick to increase her season total to a state-high 47 goals scored.
Despite the lopsided final score, New Berlin West began the game with the momentum and controlled the possession early, tallying two scoring chances in the opening minutes of the first half.
'The first five minutes, we had two real chances, but we just didn't finish,' New Berlin West coach Matt Drago said. 'If we finish those, it'd be really interesting to see, but we don't get to see that. I thought we had a really good first half.'
The game remained scoreless until the 43rd minute when Rhodes dribbled past two defenders and a diving goalkeeper to find the open net, giving the Wolverines a 1-0 lead.
'We played a great ball through, and I knew if I could get past the two defenders,' Rhodes said. 'That is one of my favorite spots to shoot from. I saw the openings, and it kept opening up as I went. I was able to flick it in there.'
Leading 1-0 after 45 minutes of play, the Wolverines came out in the second half with more energy and aggressiveness.
It didn't take long before they added onto their lead. In the 47th minute, Waukesha West's Kaitlyn Zanon drilled a free kick from 20 yards out into the back of the net, increasing the lead to 2-0.
Rhodes then scored in the 54th and 56th minute to seal the game and berth to the state tournament, to be held at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee, beginning June 17.
'One thing we are good at is grinding out 90 minutes,' Zindler said. 'We play a lot of high quality opponents where games are not won in the first half. You have to play the full 90 minutes. With the gifts we have up top in terms of our attackers, 90 minutes is a long time to hold us out of a goal.'
Waukesha West will meet Homestead (17-5-1) in the state semifinal Friday, with the championship match to feature either defending state champ Oregon or Pulaski.
'We need to be better on Friday,' Zindler said. 'We will be better on Friday. We are in the final four of state again, and there is a lot of good teams out there, but people have to be concerned with us, because we can play.'
Catholic Memorial rampages
The girls soccer team from Catholic Memorial is back in a familiar place, and they used a bulldozer to get there.
Memorial racked up an 8-0 win over Grafton in the sectional final, an outcome made more eye popping by the 8-1 win over Big Foot/Williams Bay and the combined 18-0 score by which CMH defeated two regional foes.
The four-time reigning state champion has not missed a state tournament since 2005. The Crusaders will be the heavy favorite to make it five straight and nine overall.
Emily Cervantes scored four times, and Lauren Lehsten scored twice in the sectional-final rout. Other goals belonged to Maureen Burke and Trystan Christianson.
Memorial (21-1-2) will meet Notre Dame (23-2-3) in the Division 3 state semifinal at 7 p.m. Friday. The winner will face either Belleville/New Glarus or Seymour in Saturday's noon final.