Upset win over top-ranked Cedarburg sends Grafton to showcase soccer tournament for fifth straight year
As a modest sixth seed in a brutally tough WIAA Division 1 sectional, the Grafton girls’ soccer team appeared to be a long shot to book a repeat trip to the state tournament this spring.
With six regular-season losses and a fourth-place finish in the North Shore Conference, the Black Hawks weren’t supposed to survive talent-laden brackets topped by powers such as Cedarburg, Arrowhead and Hartford.
Forget the naysayers.
When the final whistle sounded last Saturday, Grafton not only walked off the Germantown High School field with a sectional championship, it did so in impressive fashion. The Hawks outraced, outworked and outshot previously undefeated Cedarburg for a 5-2 win that reaffirmed their place among the state’s soccer elite.
“It was an amazing game, a great performance by our girls,” said Grafton coach Don Arnold, whose team broke open a close match with three second-half goals.
“I think the biggest thing was our speed. We were able to keep attacking and keep the pressure on Cedarburg, especially in the second half.”
Not surprisingly, Arnold singled out the play of senior forward Carley Pfannerstill, who scored two goals, assisted on another and drew a foul that created a penalty kick.
“Carley was just a handful for their defenders with her speed and ball handling. She played like a champion all night,” Arnold said.
Pfannerstill, the Hawks’ leading scorer this season, set the tone early when she scored on a breakaway in the 11th minute. After slipping behind the defense, she took a pass from junior midfielder Alyssa Arnold and drove a shot past goalkeeper Tori Riechers to put Grafton up, 1-0.
Ten minutes later, the lead grew to 2-0 when Pfannerstill controlled the ball on the left side, drew two defenders and sent a pass into the box to Arnold, who netted an uncontested shot.
Cedarburg, ranked No. 1 among the state’s Division 1 teams all season, showed its mettle by mounting a comeback. After getting on the board with a goal by Sarah Dowd in the final minute of the half, the Bulldogs became the aggressor early in the second period.
A penalty-kick goal by Anny West tied the game at 2-2 in the 42nd minute.
“That was a pivotal time of the game,” coach Arnold said. “We knew that this game was going to be a battle, so it was not surprising to see Cedarburg come back against us. But we also knew we had to make something happen again.”
The response came in the form of a three-goal flurry in a 21-minute span.
In the 48th minute, Pfannerstill drew a foul when she was taken down in the Cedarburg box by a defender. On the penalty kick, Alyssa Arnold’s shot was blocked by Riechers, but the ball popped free, allowing Arnold to score on a rebound.
The Hawks never trailed again. After a goal by Haley Orlowski, assisted by Maddy Huibregste, made it 4-2 in the 51st minute, Pfannerstill capped the scoring off a pass from Angie Mann at 69 minutes.
The flurry turned a nail-biter into a rout that ended the season for Cedarburg (19-1-1). The win was the Hawks’ eighth straight and gave them the final word after they lost to the Bulldogs, 1-0, in April on the way to a fourth-place finish in the North Shore Conference.
“I couldn’t be prouder of the girls,” said coach Arnold, who praised the work of defenders such as Huibregste, Audrey Dickmann and keeper Alissa Viste as keys to a resilient victory.
“We had some tough games early in the year, but I think that made us better. They faced some adversity, and it took them a while to recover, but eventually it made them stronger.”
However unthinkable a few weeks ago, Grafton’s payoff Saturday was its fifth straight trip to the WIAA state tournament, which starts Thursday with the Division 1 quarterfinals.
The Hawks will try to keep their dream alive when they take on Neenah at 7 p.m.
Grafton 2, Menomonee Falls 1 (2 OT)
Emma Fatla’s goal in the second overtime lifted the Hawks to a sectional semifinal win at home June 7.
Fatla, a senior midfielder, scored off an assist from Pfannerstill to oust an upstart Falls team that had reached the sectional level by knocking off No. 2-seeded Arrowhead.
The game winner brought an abrupt end to a defensive tussle that was scoreless until the final 10 minutes.
A goal by Alyssa Arnold gave Grafton a 1-0 lead at 72:45, but Falls got the equalizer when Jami Lessila scored with just over a minute left in regulation. Neither team could find the net in the first 10-minute overtime, but it wasn’t without trying.
Coach Arnold praised the play of Viste, a senior who had several critical stops.
“Alissa Viste was just amazing. She had two game-saving saves and was just a pleasure to watch,” he said.
Falls finished the season 17-6-2.
Image Information: GRAFTON’S ANGIE MANN put her foot to use as she tried to control a loose ball against a Menomonee Falls player in a sectional semifinal match. Grafton won, 2-1, in double overtime, and then defeated Cedarburg, 5-2, in the title game last Saturday. Photo by Sam Arendt