First-team selections of Eichler, Fatla, Knauer, Viste underscore Grafton girls’ mettle in championship season
You would expect a plethora of postseason honors for a Grafton girls’ soccer team that won its first North Shore Conference title, was ranked No. 1 among the state’s Division 1 squads and had a school-record 24 victories.
Fans of the Black Hawks shouldn’t be disappointed with all-league accolades.
Four Grafton players earned first-team recognition in the coaches’ voting, and three others received honorable mention.
Leading the Hawks’ 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 Washington’s Bre McDonald, as a second-team midfielder, and Mallory Mueller, as an honorable-mention defender.
All of Grafton’s first-team picks are juniors. Fatla, Knauer and Viste are repeat selections on the squad.
As the Hawks’ 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.
“Hannah could score, but she was asked to create things for other people as well,” said Grafton coach Don Arnold, whose team shared the league title with Homestead with a 5-1-1 record.
“She’s got speed, ball-handing skills and is fearless in going for the ball. She’s also so smart in her decision making.
“She’s definitely one of the best forwards in the state.”
The Hawks’ 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.
“Emma was very dangerous because of the way she could serve balls,” Arnold said. “I thought she was unstoppable when she got going.”
Knauer helped lead the Hawks’ defense as a stalwart stopper and also contributed four goals and an assist. Her nonstop energy helped make her “a monster at winning 50-50 balls,” Arnold said.
“I feel sorry for players who had to go up against her,” he added.
Viste had her best season as the anchor of Grafton’s back line. She posted 18 shutouts and allowed just 16 goals, an average of 0.62 per game.
“Alissa was very solid and came up with some huge saves,” Arnold said, singling out Viste’s stops in sectional wins over Germantown and Cedarburg.
“She really stepped up in some of the biggest games of the season.”
Pfannerstill, a junior, played in the shadow of some of her teammates but was still one of the league’s top scorers. She had 12 goals and nine assists and combined with Eichler to give the Hawks one of the area’s best quick-strike duos.
“Carley’s not a very tall girl, but she definitely plays much bigger than her stature,” Arnold said. “She has outstanding speed and ball-handling skills.”
Safstrom shined as a center midfielder, contributing 16 goals and seven assists. The junior was one of Grafton’s unsung heroes, according to her coach.
“Tess really came through for us with big plays when teams were focused on other people,” he said. “She was very strong in the air.”
Dickmann, a sophomore, deftly handled the sweeper role. “Audrey wasn’t a big vocal leader, but she still kept us organized in the back,” Arnold said. “She was very quick to the ball.”
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.
“Her stats didn’t jump out at you, but she was a tremendous worker,” Port coach Sean O’Brien said. “She sees everything on the field so well.”
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 Pirates’ most valuable player.
“I would put Mallory’s speed up against anyone in the conference,” O’Brien said.
“She never came out of games, either. She played every minute of every game until the regionals.”