Near-perfect season abruptly ends

Missed opportunities lead to playoff heartbreak again for CG-Belgium girls

CEDAR GROVE-BELGIUM’S Shelby Cooney scored her team’s goals in a 3-2, double-overtime playoff loss to Kohler last Thursday. Photos by Sam Arendt
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

This wasn’t the way it was supposed to end for the Cedar Grove-Belgium High School girls’ soccer team.

Not a home playoff loss — only the Rockets’ second blemish on an otherwise perfect record.

And not another season-ending defeat in such a crushing manner.

No. 4-seeded Kohler used a last-second goal to pull out a double-overtime, 3-2 victory over the top-seeded Rockets in a Division 4 sectional semifinal last Thursday in front of a large crowd.

It comes one season after the Rockets lost the state title game in the final minute to Kenosha St. Joseph, 2-1. Plenty of this year’s players — as well as coach Elias Garza — were there.

“It’s an agonizing way to have the last two seasons end in the final seconds — heartbreaking,” Garza said.

The Rockets got off to a slow start against the Blue Bombers, falling behind, 2-0, midway through the first half.

Shelby Cooney finally got the hosts on the board after getting behind the defense before the break.

“At halftime, we talked about continuing to play with urgency, yet composed. We knew we would not have problems creating quality chances. It would just be a matter of taking advantage of those chances and finishing.”

The Rockets continued to struggle to find the net.

Toward the end of regulation, star scorer Abby Kraus, who broke the school’s single-season record for goals this year, finally tied the game.

The score remained tied, 2-2, and the Big East Conference foes headed into overtime.

Neither team scored in the first session, and “the frenzied pace” carried into the second overtime, Garza said.

“When it appeared time would expire, Kohler would mount a last attack from their right side and put a lofted shot or pass into the box that we were not able to secure thus creating the deflection to a Kohler player who positioned herself well for the game-winning tap in,” he said.

The score came with about 15 seconds to go.

The result was not indicative of how the game was played.

“We outpossessed Kohler 60% to 40% and outshot them 37-14,” Garza said.

But the fate of soccer games doesn’t ride on time of possession or shots taken. It’s how many balls get put into the net.

“As a team, we could have defended better as well as been much more efficient with our finishing,” Garza said.

Despite setting a school record for most goals scored in a season, the Rockets could have shattered the mark even more.

“In our last two postseason games, we finished four out of 87 opportunities. We were living dangerously and it came back to haunt us,” Garza said.

The Rockets were supposed to play Kohler on April 30, but the game was postponed to May 24 due to weather. But Kohler, earlier that week, tied Oostburg, which had been in second place. That sealed the Big East title for the Rockets.

With thunderstorms in the forecast for May 24 and the conference and playoff seeds decided, the game was canceled.

Garza said playing Kohler during the regular season likely wouldn’t have had much of an impact in the playoff game. Since everything was already decided, he said he would have used varsity reserve players. Besides, Garza said, he watched Kohler play twice this season.

“In the end, I do not think it had an impact but I guess we cannot rule it out,” he said.

The Rockets, however, still made school history, going undefeated in the Big East and winning the conference for the first time and again exciting the school and community with a thrilling season. After losing their season opener at Wrightstown, they ripped off a school-record 17 straight victories before losing to Kohler.

“I am beyond grateful and proud of the seniors for the years of hard work and the entire team for all of the great memories and accomplishments of this season,” Garza said.

“We will get stronger and we will be back.”

Oostburg topped the Blue Bombers last Saturday to earn a trip to state.

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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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