Big honors for Big East champs

Offensive and defensive players of the year among five Rockets on first team; Ozaukee has two selections
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

The Cedar Grove-Belgium High School girls’ soccer team made history this season by winning its first Big East Conference championship.

The Rockets went undefeated, 13-0, in the league, and postseason honors followed suit.

Shelby Cooney was named the Big East’s Defensive Player of the Year and Abby Kraus won Offensive Player of the Year.

They were part of a school-record five first-team all-conference selections.

Cooney is a junior who made the first team last season as well and was described by coach Elias Garza as the team’s best player.

“We were not sure just how much room Shelby had for improvement and she has continually shocked us with her performances this season,” Garza said.

“Shelby embodies everything that we attempt to do when our team steps onto the pitch. She has operated predominantly on the left side of our defense and has been unbelievable on both sides of the ball.

Shelby is easily our strongest one-on-one dribbler and one-on-one defender as she has not been beaten much this year and has continuously been involved in the attack as she makes gliding past opposition defenders look effortless.”

Cooney scored seven goals and had seven assists. On defense, she cleared four goal-bound shots.

Kraus, who made the second team last season, broke the team’s single-season scoring record by netting 34 goals in the regular season. She added seven assists.

“Abby is excellent on the press and loves to harass opposition backs in order to create opportunities higher up the pitch for the team. She has quite the range of passing and her technique for passing and shooting is incredible when she is on,” Garza said.

Kraus had seven hat tricks on the season and an “eye for the spectacular,” Garza said, “with countless goals anywhere from a few yards out to 30 plus yards away with either foot.”

Kraus scored 18 goals from the right foot and 16 from her left.

First-team selection junior Kelsey Lukens led the team in tackles and “is an excellent one-two touch passer that keeps our team ticking. If we kept track of the assist to the assist, as they do in hockey, then

Kelsey would easily lead our team in that category,” Garza said.

“Kelsey is our workhorse who dominates the 50-50 challenges in midfield to prevent counterattacks and ensure that our team can retain possession. Kelsey never stops running and her composure when defending has really raised her to another level for us this season.”

First-teamer junior Amy TenHaken was “our creative mastermind in midfield,” Garza said.
She led the Rockets with 12 assists.

“Amy has this incredibly delicate first touch that allows her to work her magic in very tight spaces. Amy is extremely composed in congestion and often does her best work when surrounded by multiple defenders as she has come up with some of her best assists in these situations,” Garza said.

“Amy will often leave our coaching staff breathless with some of her threaded passes.”

Sophomore goalkeeper Brooke Braga made the first team for the second consecutive season. She had nine shutouts.

“Brooke has developed into a phenomenal leader in the back despite her youth and commands her box with total authority. Her shot-stopping abilities are something truly special as she is nearly unbeatable

in one-on-one situations and her technique and goalkeeping fundamentals are at an exceptionally high level for her age,” Garza said.

“She added accuracy and purpose to her punts this year and even has an assist off of a punt.”

The Rockets had two second-team selections.

Senior defender Haven Minick, a three-year starter, peaked this season.

“Haven has exhibited improved play this year with discipline, positional awareness as well as the ability to connect with the midfield as opposed to looking to simply bypass the middle third by playing the ball long,” Garza said.

Senior captain Alex Mentink made the second team for the second straight season as a defender.

“Alex has truly embraced the leadership role on and off the pitch. She plays with unmatched intensity, covers a lot of area touchline to touchline and as the general in our defensive third (of the field) is always directing, encouraging and motivating her teammates,” Garza said.

Junior captain Haven Lanser earned honorable mention after missing half the season due to injury.

“Her composed quality of skill has been on display in various areas of the pitch, which has been critical to the improved play leading up to the postseason. She’s a cerebral two-footed player who embraces challenges in possession as well as transitioning into defense,” Garza said.

The Rockets went 17-2 this season, losing their season opener before going on a school-record 17-game winning streak. They lost a sectional semifinal to conference rival Kohler in the final seconds of double overtime. The teams didn’t play during the regular season due to bad weather.

Ozaukee had two all-conference selections.

Senior Abby Paulus made the first team at sweeper.

“She worked hard for it. She’s always been strong in the back,” coach Ivan Garcia said.

“She knows how to use her body, how to attack, when to attack. She worked well communicating and directing the outside positions and the stopper.”

Senior Abby Miller received honorable mention. She started at outside midfield and was moved to center midfield “just because her ball skills improved a lot,” Garcia said.

Miller led a low-scoring team in scoring. She had four goals through 11 games, according to wissports.

“She knew when to slow down and when to speed up. She communicated well with the strikers as well as with the defense,” Garcia said.

The Warriors went 5-11-4. They lost their second-round playoff game, 3-1, to Lake Mills in a game cut short by 25 minutes due to weather.

The game should have been closer, Garcia said. A foul call in the penalty box at the end of the first half he said was “the worst call in my coaching career” helped give Lake Mills a 3-1 lead.

“If we would have played those 25 minutes remaining, something could have changed. It was tough,” Garcia said.

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