Bares-fueled surges, hard-nosed defense carry Ozaukee team to eye-opening state soccer title
With a four-year goal of reaching the state level already realized, Katie Bares, Erika Karrels and Mickey Burns werenâ€™t about to stop.
The trio of Ozaukee seniors and a strong supporting cast didnâ€™t just advance to the WIAA Division 3 girlsâ€™ state soccer tournament last weekend, they
One day after knocking off last yearâ€™s state champion, the Warriors throttled Prairie School, 3-1, to claim a championship of their own Saturday at Uihlein
Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
Ozaukee combined a defensive shell that budged but rarely broke with an opportunistic offense to claim its fourth WIAA title in six state trips.
â€śIâ€™m really excited and happy. It was a great way to end the season,â€ť Burns said.
â€śItâ€™s just amazing, ending my senior year with this. Itâ€™s just been a really fun year,â€ť said Bares, who scored twice, including a goal worthy of a
â€śSportscenterâ€ť highlight reel.
â€śCrazy,â€ť Karrels said. â€śFor the seniors, Iâ€™m glad we went out the way we did and Iâ€™m really proud of them.â€ť
Entering the title game, Ozaukee (21-1-2) had made a habit of grabbing early leads in playoff games and then buckling down defensively. The strategy â€”
which Warriors coach Eric Liebergen called the â€śDick Bennett style of soccerâ€ť in tribute to the former University of Wisconsin basketball coach â€” resulted
in hair-pulling, heart-racing pressure that paid off.
Saturday was no different, but it came with a twist, thanks to two Ozaukee co-captains.
In the 11th minute, Burns got behind the Prairie School defense and sent a pass to Bares, who bounced a shot past goalkeeper Becky Kann.
It was 1-0, but the Warriors werenâ€™t stopping there.
At 13:02, Bares popped a corner kick from the left side that seemed to take forever to drop. Burns got into position at the far post and executed a perfect,
unchallenged header into the goal.
â€śWeâ€™ve been practicing that forever,â€ť Burns said.
Liebergen said the score came on one of three or four corner-kick plays he uses. Burns pushing the ball down ensured the header would be playable and
not sail over the goal, he said.
Less than 14 minutes into the game, the Warriors were up, 2-0, against one of the stateâ€™s best defenses.
But Prairie School (16-6-2), the Division 3 state runner-up last year and in 2010, attacked with the desperate urgency befitting a team that was unwilling to
Ozaukee answered with a defensive stand befitting a state champion.
At 20:10, the Hawks broke through on an attack, and Karrels made a diving save at her goalkeeper position to deflect the ball. Burns cleared it, but the
pressure continued for the next several minutes.
Bares, Burns and company kept disrupting the Prairie School offense, stepping in front of passes, stealing the ball or clearing it when they couldnâ€™t control
it. When the Hawks did get a chance, Karrels regularly scooped up the ball before a quickly approaching foe could reach it for a shot.
â€śOne-on-ones are always kind of a gamble,â€ť said Karrels, who praised her defense. â€śWe work together so well and communicate a lot.â€ť
Karrels finished the day with seven saves, including a diving stop in the first minute of the second half.
Liebergen described his goalieâ€™s effort Saturday as â€śone of the best games in her high school career.â€ť
Entering the match, Liebergen said he decided to play â€śstraight up, vanillaâ€ť defense but keep two Warriors on Annabel Ware, the Hawksâ€™ leading scorer.
If Karrels wasnâ€™t making a save, it was Bares and Burns who not only stopped balls but stole them, kept them in play and turned them up field. Or it was
Ashley Preisler positioning herself in the right place to stop a run, or Kaylee Klopp clearing a ball.
This was team defense at its best.
â€śWeâ€™re not going to give up an easy goal if we defend correctly,â€ť Liebergen said. â€śSome of our parents hate that we do that.â€ť
But it worked, and parents exploded with glee as the final seconds ticked down. They hugged and photographed as many Warriors as they could before a
triumphant bus trip home to Fredonia.
â€śItâ€™s like the best feeling in the world. Thatâ€™s pretty much all you can say about it,â€ť Ozaukee junior midfielder Lizzie Janke said.
â€śThis is an awesome feeling. Best thing that could happen my freshman year,â€ť forward Emily Janke said.
To prevail in their biggest game of the season, the Warriors had to survive Prairie Schoolâ€™s physical style of play. Liebergen said he was concerned Bares
was on the receiving end of a good portion of it.
â€śWhatever is ailing her, she finds a way to play through it,â€ť he added.
At 73:33, Bares indeed played through, perhaps catching the Hawks relaxing just a little. She possessed the ball in the left corner seemingly happy just to
burn the clock.
But the Warriorsâ€™ leading scorer turned and attacked the goal. She juked two Hawks, putting one on her fanny â€” and then the goalie â€” by starting in one
direction, stopping on a dime and darting in another, weaving through the defense with Barry Sanders-like beauty.
By the time the ball approached the keeper, the Hawks had no chance. Bares popped a shot inside near post. It was 3-0 and the countdown to the
celebration was on.
â€śI saw the line was open. I just had to get past a couple of girls. The goalie was out of position,â€ť Bares said. â€śAfter I scored, I knew we had it and won
â€śSheâ€™s got the heart of a champion,â€ť Liebergen said. â€śI donâ€™t know which goal was my favorite.â€ť
To the Hawksâ€™ credit, Ware got past the Ozaukee defense and answered with a scoring shot past a diving Karrels at 75:14. All of a sudden, Baresâ€™ second
goal loomed huge.
Prairie Schoolâ€™s last best chance to close the gap came at 77:35, but Karrels made another diving save.
Minutes later, the cheering, applause and embracing commenced.
Image Information: HEAD COACH ERIC LIEBERGEN and members of the Ozaukee girlsâ€™ soccer team were more than happy to pose with their trophy and individual medals after winning the WIAA Division 3 state title last Saturday. The Warriors defeated Prairie School, 3-1, to cap a 21-1-2 season. Photo by Sam Arendt