MILWAUKEE – Players and coaches of the McFarland women’s soccer team have made their season-long mission to return to the WIAA state tournament.
The Spartans were keen to repeat the experience after coming to the state last year for the first time since 2008, then having fun winning the WIAA Division 3 title and winning the program’s first Ballon d’Or.
The Spartans were back on Friday night, making the trip back-to-back as they advanced to the state tournament for the fifth time overall.
But McFarland fell short in his attempt to defend the Division 3 championship.
Dramatically, third-placed Green Bay Notre Dame (17-2-8) defeated second-placed McFarland (19-2-2) in a Division 3 semi-final penalty shootout at KOHLER Engines Stadium at Uihlein Soccer Park.
Notre Dame beat McFarland 4-3 on penalties in six rounds.
Spartans senior midfielder/striker Grace Breuchel, senior forward Greta Blau and senior midfielder Megan Gates scored as the first five rounds ended 3-3. Notre Dame senior forward Stella Cuene took the shot of victory at the bottom of the sixth round.
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The game went into overtime (two 10-minute sessions without a golden goal) after the teams drew 1-1 in regulation. But neither team scored in extra time, sending the match to penalties.
“We worked really hard,” Blau said. “We play from the heart. But at the end of the day, we just couldn’t finish it.”
McFarland coach TJ DiPrizio agreed.
“We had opportunities today,” DiPrizio said. “We had chances. We had this breakout and we had a few other chances and we just didn’t finish. Sometimes it is.
“I felt very confident about (the shooting). We practiced and these girls were glowing from it. But tired legs, tired minds. Things happen. Girls who usually break up, without a second thought, just tired legs and don’t put it where they normally put it.”
Notre Dame will face New Berlin Eisenhower (21-2-1) in the championship game at 7pm on Saturday. Eisenhower scored four goals in the first eight minutes after the break and claimed a 4-0 victory over Minocqua Lakeland Union (15-3-3) in the first semi-final.
Breuchel, Rock Valley Conference Player of the Year, opened the scoring. Viterbo bets Breuchel broke in and beat Tritons senior goalkeeper Carlene Goral, on Goral’s left for a goal in the 14th minute.
The Spartans’ offense began to threaten before that, forcing Goral to make a save on forward Avery Pennekamp’s shot in the 12th minute.
The Tritons responded after Bruechel’s goal, narrowly losing in an attempt to tie the game. Notre Dame midfielder Audrey Burnell’s free kick from around 25 yards deflected off the post.
The Tritons converted in the 38th minute. Tritons rookie Lacey Fabry tied the game by retrieving a loose ball in the front and shooting it into the top corner.
The Spartans almost counterattacked a minute later. With Goral out of the net, Breuchel’s angled shot from the right deflected the far post.
“I thought if we got one sooner, maybe we could get a second one,” DiPrizio said. “We almost got one right after they scored theirs. I thought it might have turned the tide if we responded right away. We pushed for the second goal but couldn’t.”
McFarland beat Notre Dame 10-4 in the first half. Goral was credited with two saves and Spartans junior goalkeeper Avery Weaver made one in the opening 40 minutes.
The Tritons had the ball possession advantage early in the second half, before McFarland gained several late chances. Goral stopped a shot by Breuchel after a good run by Breuchel in the 72nd minute, then Goral deflected a shot from Spartans defender Elise Freeman in the 75th minute.
When the match concluded, McFarland had 18 shots and Notre Dame had seven. Goral made six saves and Weaver made three.
The Spartans finished with eight corners and the Tritons with four.
“We created opportunities and kind of limited theirs,” DiPrizio said. “I don’t think they really threatened any of them very dangerously. But we just didn’t finish ours. We talked about creating our opportunities and we did. We just didn’t finish them.”
Blau said he returned to action after missing time earlier in the season due to a stress fracture in his groin. She said that because of the injury she switched her college commitment, canceling her UW-Green Bay commitment and committing to Edgewood College.
Eisenhower ranked first in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association’s regular season final poll. McFarland was second and Notre Dame third, while Lakeland was unranked.
Rock Valley champion McFarland advanced to the state with a 1-0 victory over Madison Edgewood in the sectional finals at McFarland.
In addition to winning the Division 3 title last year, the Spartans placed second in Division 2 in 2007.
Notre Dame qualified for the 14th time, including making its fourth trip in a row when the tournament was played (it was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
The Tritons won the 2018 Division 3 championship and placed second four times (in 2002, 2003 and 2021 in Division 2 and 2015 in Division 3).
Fox River Classic Conference co-champion Notre Dame advanced to the state with a 1-0 win over Plymouth in the sectional final.
McFarland defeated Plymouth 4-1 in last year’s state championship game.
In the first semi-final of the 3rd Division on Friday, Eisenhower exploded after the goalless first half with goals from midfielder Lauren Hernandez (40 minutes and 31 seconds), midfielder Alex Nunag (43:56) and striker Taylor Rinzel (scoring twice at 46:54 and 47:43). The Lions beat the Thunderbirds 21-2.