Jump for joy

The Norskies’ Lexi Kulow celebrates after getting a ball past Oregon goalie Melia Moyer.

DeForest girls soccer coach Tim Esser was overjoyed with the effort given by his team in their WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal game with top-seeded Oregon on June 6. But, Oregon’s talent would be too much in the end.

The Panthers who outscored their opponents 18-0 during regional action, but had all they could handle with the Lady Norskies. They pulled away late for a 5-2 victory.

“That is a really good team,” Esser said. “We went with a different formation this game and stacked our defense a little bit. We played them pretty well in the first half and had them frustrated, but it was a matter of time before some of their really talented players stepped up.”

The Norskies were playing in their first sectional semifinal since 2015. They also lost in the sectional semifinals to Oregon in 2014 and 2015.

DeForest finished the season 10-6-3 overall.

“To make it has far as we did and scoring two goals against a great Oregon team, gives us some momentum going into the off-season,” Esser said.

Oregon defeated Sauk Prairie 1-0 in the sectional championship to advance to the state tournament. The Panthers (16-0-1) earned the No. 2 seed at state and will play third-seeded Brookfield East (8-12-1) in the state semifinals today. Top-seeded Whitefish Bay (23-1) and fourth-seeded Marshfield (14-7-2) will play in the other semifinal.

The Division 2 state championship game is set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Norskies’ defensive-minded strategy paid off in the first half. They were able to hang with the Panthers and only trailed 1-0 at halftime.

“We knew we were going to give up a lot of shots, but we felt in the first half we didn’t give up a lot of quality shots,” Esser said. “The game plan was to bend but don’t break mentality and we did a pretty good job of it in the first half.”

Oregon’s Hanna Rohrer scored the lone goal of the first half 11 minutes, 47 seconds into the contest.

The Lady Norskies did not have many scoring opportunities in the first half, but they stayed in the game thanks to strong play by goalies Lynzy Schnell and Ingrid Heitmann.

Schnell made several diving saves before being injured midway through the first half. Heitmann had a big save in the few minutes she played while Schnell was taped up to come back in the game.

Schnell finished the game with nine saves.

“Lynzy had a really good game,” Esser said. “She had a lot of shots coming at her.”

Oregon looked like it might pull away early in the second half. The Panthers got goals from Maddy Swartzmiller and Brooklyn Kane in the first eight minutes of the half.

However, DeForest answered back with a goal by Lexi Kulow less than four minutes after Kane scored. It was the first goal the Panthers had given up in the playoffs.

Kane scored again at the 78:43 mark to increase the lead to 4-1. She headed the ball in off a corner kick by Emma Halverson.

The Norskies came right back on the ensuing possession and got a goal from Mandy Fitzgerald 13 seconds later.

“Every time they scored a goal we could have hung our heads, but the girls didn’t and came right back with a goal,” Esser said. “That speaks volumes of this team. It is a group that doesn’t give up.”

Oregon ended any thoughts of a Norski comeback after getting a goal by Ashley Hanson with under nine minutes to go in the game.

Oregon goalie Melia Moyer finished the game with two saves.

The game marked the end for DeForest’s senior class of Schnell, Claudia Tisch, Katelyn Fox, Camryn Hargraves, Lydia Webster, Cheyenne Hemauer and Heitmann.

“They provided a lot of team leadership,” Esser said. “I can’t say enough about that group. The chemistry of this team was due to the leadership of the seniors.”

Even with the losses to graduation, the Norskies have a wealth of talent returning next season and Esser is excited about what is to come.

“We are looking forward to next season with the talented players we have returning,” Esser said. “It should be a great group to work with.”

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