First-team selections of Eichler, Fatla, Knauer, Viste underscore Grafton girlsâ mettle in championship season
You would expect a plethora of postseason honors for a Grafton girlsâ soccer team that won its first North Shore Conference title, was ranked No. 1 among the stateâs Division 1 squads and had a school-record 24 victories.
Fans of the Black Hawks shouldnât be disappointed with all-league accolades.
Four Grafton players earned first-team recognition in the coachesâ voting, and three others received honorable mention.
Leading the Hawksâ prize list are forward Hannah Eichler, midfielder Emma Fatla, defender Hannah Knauer and goalkeeper Alissa Viste, who are all on the 11-player top squad.
Honorable mentions went to forward Carley Pfannerstill, midfielder Tess Safstrom and defender Audrey Dickmann.
Also receiving recognition were Port Washingtonâs Bre McDonald, as a second-team midfielder, and Mallory Mueller, as an honorable-mention defender.
All of Graftonâs first-team picks are juniors. Fatla, Knauer and Viste are repeat selections on the squad.
As the Hawksâ top offensive threat, Eichler excelled at both scoring and playmaking. She led Grafton with 21 goals overall and had 12 assists, good for a team-best 54 points.
âHannah could score, but she was asked to create things for other people as well,â said Grafton coach Don Arnold, whose team shared the league title with Homestead with a 5-1-1 record.
âSheâs got speed, ball-handing skills and is fearless in going for the ball. Sheâs also so smart in her decision making.
âSheâs definitely one of the best forwards in the state.â
The Hawksâ success in compiling a 24-3-4 overall record and reaching the semifinals of the WIAA Division 1 state tournament was a tribute to their strength at all positions.
Fatla excelled as an outside midfielder whose transition skills made her solid at both ends of the field. She led Grafton with 13 assists and had 13 goals.
âEmma was very dangerous because of the way she could serve balls,â Arnold said. âI thought she was unstoppable when she got going.â
Knauer helped lead the Hawksâ defense as a stalwart stopper and also contributed four goals and an assist. Her nonstop energy helped make her âa monster at winning 50-50 balls,â Arnold said.
âI feel sorry for players who had to go up against her,â he added.
Viste had her best season as the anchor of Graftonâs back line. She posted 18 shutouts and allowed just 16 goals, an average of 0.62 per game.
âAlissa was very solid and came up with some huge saves,â Arnold said, singling out Visteâs stops in sectional wins over Germantown and Cedarburg.
âShe really stepped up in some of the biggest games of the season.â
Pfannerstill, a junior, played in the shadow of some of her teammates but was still one of the leagueâs top scorers. She had 12 goals and nine assists and combined with Eichler to give the Hawks one of the areaâs best quick-strike duos.
âCarleyâs not a very tall girl, but she definitely plays much bigger than her stature,â Arnold said. âShe has outstanding speed and ball-handling skills.â
Safstrom shined as a center midfielder, contributing 16 goals and seven assists. The junior was one of Graftonâs unsung heroes, according to her coach.
âTess really came through for us with big plays when teams were focused on other people,â he said. âShe was very strong in the air.â
Dickmann, a sophomore, deftly handled the sweeper role. âAudrey wasnât a big vocal leader, but she still kept us organized in the back,â Arnold said. âShe was very quick to the ball.â
Port was 0-7 in conference games but received sold play throughout the season from its two honorees.
McDonald, a senior, was a four-year starter and two-year captain for the Pirates. She had five goals and three assists despite missing several games due to injuries.
âHer stats didnât jump out at you, but she was a tremendous worker,â Port coach Sean OâBrien said. âShe sees everything on the field so well.â
McDonald plans to play soccer next year at Cardinal Stritch University.
Mueller, another senior standout, gave Port a quick, durable defender. She had one goal and one assist and was named the Piratesâ most valuable player.
âI would put Malloryâs speed up against anyone in the conference,â OâBrien said.
âShe never came out of games, either. She played every minute of every game until the regionals.â