Grafton's soccer dream dashed by 1-0 loss at hands of Catholic Memorial in Div. 2 championship game
State championships don’t come easily.
Members of the Grafton girls’ soccer team knew that heading into last Saturday’s WIAA Division 2 title game — and a 1-0 loss to a talented Waukesha Catholic Memorial squad underscored the harsh reality.
“We showed we can play with them, but we just couldn’t come up with enough offense,” Grafton coach Don Arnold said after his team came up short in a hard-fought match at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
“You’re always disappointed to come this far and then lose, but I can’t fault our effort. The girls gave it everything they had.”
Grafton, which was playing in its first state final since winning the Division 2 crown in 1997, faced a tough test against a team seeking its third championship in the last five years.
Catholic Memorial (23-2-2) hadn’t lost to a Wisconsin team all season and wasn’t about to change things Saturday.
The Crusaders, coached by John Burke, had trouble cracking Grafton’s bend-but-don’t-break defense but maintained offensive pressure throughout the match. Their attacks led to seven first-half shots, including three that required saves by Alissa Viste, the
Hawks’ sophomore goalkeeper.
Although Grafton (20-6-2) managed to keep itself in a scoreless deadlock at halftime, the Crusaders broke through in the 56th minute.
Junior defender Valerie Gonyo gave Catholic Memorial the winner when she launched a shot from 25 yards out on the left side.
Viste extended herself and got her hands on the ball, but it popped up and rolled behind her into the net.
“It was a good strike and a tough ball,” Arnold said. “Alissa made a good play but just couldn’t quite corral it.”
The Hawks tried to rally with their quick-strike offense, led by sophomore forwards Hannah Eichler and Carley Pfannerstill, who combined for 35 goals this season.
However, the Crusaders wouldn’t budge, keeping the ball on Grafton’s side of the field much of the second half. When the
Hawks did make runs to the Catholic Memorial end, defenders thwarted the threats.
“We just didn’t string our passes together like we usually do,” Pfannerstill said. “It was frustrating because we couldn’t get anything going.”
Sensing it had control after Gonyo‘s score, Catholic Memorial didn’t deviate from its game plan. The Crusaders held their positions defensively and let high-scoring Nikki Condit lead the attack.
Condit, a junior who had 34 goals this season, was held in check, thanks in large part to close marking by defender Molly
McElligott. However, Catholic Memorial’s relentless approach helped stymie Grafton’s comeback hopes.
“We were doing everything we could to push forward, believe me,” Arnold said. “We had some chances, but it wasn’t enough.”
The Crusaders finished with a 12-5 edge in shots. None of Grafton’s attempts were on goal.
Despite the heartbreaking finale, the Hawks had plenty of reason to celebrate an outstanding season. They won 12 of their last
14 games and outscored their last nine opponents, 30-2.
“We had a bunch of young girls who really learned how to play together and stepped up their game when they had to,” Arnold said.
“They have a lot to be proud of.”
It’s a realization that may take a little more time for the Hawks, who will lose six players — McElligott, Ashley Aman, Rachel Janczak, Melissa Henke, Ali Lorge and Katie Best — to graduation.
“We have a young team, and most of us will be back next year,” Pfannerstill said.
“But it’s a bummer because we wanted to win it for the seniors.”
Memebers of the Grafton girls' team consoled each other after a 1-0 loss to Catholic Memorial left them one win shy of a WIAA Division 2 championshi Saturday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. Grafton's Hannah Eichler tried to elude a Catholic Memorial defender during the state title game. Photos by Sam Arendt