In the offseason, the McFarland girls soccer team were strong favorites to return to the state soccer tournament.
Battling injuries and a tough schedule throughout the season, the Spartans lived up to those expectations with a 1-0 victory over Edgewood on Saturday, June 11 in the Division 3 Sectional Semifinal.
“These group of girls, the last two years of them, has just been something really special. This year, top to bottom, everyone has bought in, and this was the goal that everyone had was to get back,” said McFarland head coach TJ DiPrizio.
Looking to take an early lead, senior Avery Pennekamp used her speed to get behind an Edgewood defender on a breakaway. Pennekamp ripped a shot that clanged off the post, keeping the game scoreless.
McFarland kept up the pressure when senior Grace Breuchel found senior Greta Blau on a run. Blau created space with some nifty dribbling, then ripped a shot which found the back of the net to give McFarland a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute.
“I just wanted to make sure I stayed composed, and didn’t hit it over the crossbar,” said Blau with a laugh.
Blau, who has missed time this season with an injury, has given the Spartans’ offense another weapon up top. Since returning to the lineup at the beginning of regionals, Blau has either scored a goal or provided an assist in each game of the playoffs.
“Soccer was my first love, and I didn’t want to miss out on my senior season,” said Blau.
Pennekamp hit the side netting on a shot in the 29th minute. Senior Jaelyn White also sent in a cross on a corner kick where senior Grace Breuchel headed the ball over the bar, keeping the score at 1-0.
Edgewood tried to tie the game before the half, but junior goalkeeper Avery Weaver caught a shot in the 37th minute, keeping McFarland in the lead. Weaver finished the game with two saves.
In the second half, McFarland was kept on its heels as Edgewood, the number-two seed, ramped up its offensive attack and pushed its backline near midfield.
The best chance for McFarland to score another goal came in the 66th minute when sophomore Elise Freeman worked around an Edgewood defender. Freeman sent a cross to Breuchel, who was in the goal area. A brief scramble ensued for the ball, but Edgewood (16-3-1) cleared the ball away to keep the score at 1-0.
Using that momentum, Edgewood then found themselves with a two-on-one breakaway heading towards the net.
Sophomore defender Emily Blattner chased down the Crusader with the ball and cleared the ball out of play, thwarting the attack.
“We’re basically like a second goalie, so we just work really well together. Me and Jaelyn have been playing together since like fifth grade, and Blattner is just adding on to that chemistry as well,” said senior defender Elise Gillen.
McFarland would continue to rely on clearances with Gillen taking control of a possession at the 76th minute, sending the ball upfield. White had the final clearance in the 79th minute, sending the ball upfield to Pennekamp.
“We had a few things we had to address from our last game on Thursday and they took great notes, took it to heart and it showed tonight. They cleaned it up a lot on defense and they played great tonight,” said DiPrizio.
The Edgewood defender cleared the ball out of play, allowing the Spartans (19-2-1) to let the clock expire, punching their ticket to the WIAA Division 3 State Tournament.
“As a freshman going into playoff games, if we lost it wasn’t that big of a deal because we have next year, but we don’t have next year. I’ve been playing with these girls my entire life, and I’m excited to go back to state with them,” said Gillen.
This is the fifth time in program history that McFarland has qualified for the state tournament. Last season, the Spartans won their first Division 3 State Title with a 4-1 victory over Plymouth.
McFarland will face Notre Dame (17-2-7) at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 17 in the Division 3 Semifinals.
The championship will be played at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 18. The state tournament will be held at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
McFarland 1, Edgewood 0
M 1 0 — 1
E 0 0 — 0
M: Greta Blau (Grace Breuchel), 26:15.
McFarland 6, Sugar River 1
With the game tied at 1-1 at the half, the McFarland girls soccer team rattled off five goals to advance to the Division 3 Sectional Final with a 6-1 win over Sugar River on Thursday, June 9.
“We came out on fire and we didn’t get any goals and all of a sudden our confidence started being a little shaky,” said McFarland head coach TJ DiPrizio.
Senior Greta Blau ripped a shot on net which was saved 15 seconds into the game. Blau would hit the side netting on a shot after some passing between sophomore Ava Dean and sophomore Stella Blau gave Greta Blau an opportunity for a shot.
Greta Blau nearly put the Spartans in front, hitting a line-drive that was saved off the foot of the Sugar River goalkeeper. Greta Blau then found senior Avery Pennekamp with an opportunity to score, but the shot was wide of the post, keeping the game scoreless.
With McFarland unable to convert goal-scoring opportunities, the Raiders took advantage. Sugar River, the fourth-seed, took a 1-0 lead after Hannah Boldebuck found herself in the open after senior Elise Gillen tripped. Boldebuck out-raced the rest of the defense and scored to put Sugar River in front.
Trying to tie the game, Greta Blau had a shot saved on a diving catch by the Sugar River goalkeeper. Senior Grace Breuchel and sophomore Elise Freeman also had shots saved as Sugar River clung to the 1-0 lead.
The Spartans broke through in the 37th minute when junior Sierra Binger took a corner kick. Binger lofted a cross which was misjudged by the Sugar River goalkeeper and landed in the back of the net.
“That goal from Binger got us going in the right direction and then we calmed down in the second half and just got composed,” said DiPrizio.
In the second half, Breuchel put McFarland in front with a goal off an assist from Dean. Senior Megan Gates chased down a loose ball, won it back in the corner, which would lead to the ball finding the foot of Breuchel, who gave McFarland a 3-1 lead.
“Megan played everywhere tonight. She played defense, she played midfield, out-wide and in the middle and she did everything for us,” said DiPrizio.
Breuchel then assisted Greta Blau who gave the Spartans a 4-1 lead. Pennekamp found the back of the net for a goal and Breuchel scored the sixth goal off, completing the hat trick.
McFarland, the one seed, will face Edgewood (16-2-1) at 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 11 with the winner advancing to the girls state soccer tournament. Earlier this season, McFarland (18-2-1) won 4-1 in its previous meeting against the Crusaders.
McFarland 6, Sugar River 1
S 1 0 — 1
M 1 5 — 6
S: Hannah Boldebuck, 23:18. M: Sierra Binger, 36:56.
M: Grace Breuchel (Ava Dean), 42:29. M: Grace Breuchel, 45:25. M: Greta Blau (Grace Breuchel), 49’. M: Avery Pennekamp, 52’. M: Grace Breuchel (Lucia Matenaer), 66’.