Upset bid falls minutes short for CG-Belgium

Rocket soccer bumped out of playoffs by squad with experience, talent
By 
MITCH MAERSCH
Ozaukee Press staff

During what its coach thought would be a rebuilding year, the young and banged up Cedar Grove-Belgium High School girls’ soccer team nearly advanced to a sectional final.

The No. 3-seeded Rockets were less than four minutes from a 2-1 victory last Thursday at No. 2-seeded Lake Country Lutheran in a Division 4 sectional semifinal when they gave up the tying goal and lost in overtime, 3-2.

Teammates hugged and tears flowed after the final whistle. The gravity of the season ending and the heartbreaking loss, one of several for the program in recent memory, didn’t help for last year’s Division 4 runner-up.

But a few seniors quickly put their careers in perspective.

“I’m very proud of this team and what we all did, especially the senior class with the state run we had last year and our three conference titles, which are the only three in school history,” Ashley Acevedo said.

“This team has come very close together from the start, being a young team and just starting to work together,” Lizzie Luebke said. “This game has definitely been one of our best performances, and I’m just proud of everybody coming together like this.”

“I’m so honored to be part of a team that did such great things, and I know they’re going to continue to do great things in the future,” Jessica Sutryk said.

They only possessed the ball for about 10% of the game, but the Rockets held two leads. It was freshmen that did all of their scoring.

Cora Erickson, who scored the second-most goals in the state this season and was double and triple-teamed all night, snuck through early for a goal at the 4-minute mark on an assist from freshman Aubrey Marti.

Making the most of few opportunities was how the Rockets were going to survive against a team with seven starting seniors “who have been playing soccer at a very high level their entire careers,” coach Zac Garza said.

“We knew we had to be stout defensively, hit them on the counter. We managed to do that a couple times, couldn’t keep them out of the back of the net,” he said.

They also could barely keep a lineup. Sophomore forward Hailey Prom, one of the team’s offensive fire starters, has been out with a knee injury since May 19. Just before last Thursday’s game, junior Alexis Bahr, who has a huge leg and is a threat to score from anywhere, developed tightness in her hamstring and missed nearly all of the first half.

That left Erickson as the only leading member of the Rockets’ potent offense.

During the game, Marti suffered an apparent rib injury and had to leave the stadium. Junior defender Grace Gauger took a ball in the head late and had to sit for several minutes.

“It hurts your rotation,” Garza said of the injuries. “People like Grace Konzak and Aubrey Marti have played so well. For players like that who have been used to being rotated all year to now be expected to come out here and to basically play darn near the whole game if they can, it’s a lot physically to ask of somebody if you’re not used to that.”

Still, the Rockets’ bend-but-don’t-break  defense held up until the 29th minute of the second half when senior Layla Kelbel scored on a shot to the left side.

The game was tied at 1 at halftime.

Halfway through the second half, Erickson crossed a ball from the right side to the front of the goal. After taking a big bounce straight up in the air, Konzak battled with two Lightning defenders before she ran through the ball and bumped it into the net.

“She’s got the speed so I knew I had to hang back when she crossed it in. When she crossed, I just had to go,” Konzak said of her teamwork with Erickson.

When the ball bounced up, “it kind of scared me for a second,” she said with a laugh, “but it was good.”

Erickson said “it’s hard” fighting through two and three defenders but she was proud of her team’s effort.

“I think that we gave it our all. We definitely could have won that game, but they’re a good team,” she said.

Garza is used to Erickson racking up offensive stats at this point.

“She’s going to come out here and she’s going to do her thing,” he said.

The Rockets held a 2-1 lead until the three minutes and 44 seconds left in the game, when the Lightning broke through to tie the game.

Rocket junior keeper Kadence Callahan was under fire all night long as the Lightning kept passing back and forth on the Rockets’ side of the field and kept attacking.

“We all gave it everything we had. We were still making runs, we just couldn’t get the goal in there,” she said. “This is probably one of the most competitive games we had, and we were able to stick with them.”

“Kadence was fantastic today. She was just so commanding of her box and able to pressure and take control. I was so proud of how she played today,” Garza said.

In overtime, the Lightning kept the momentum and the pressure up. Kelbel scored on a breakaway, and the Rockets couldn’t mount an attack.

The Rockets had played a tough nonconference schedule for games like this: Brookfield East, Homestead and Kiel, all ranked in the top 10 in the state in their respective divisions. Garza also had his team practice on turf at the Horace Mann Soccer Field Complex so Lake Country Lutheran’s surface wasn’t an adjustment.

But the opponent was top-notch.

“This is the best soccer-playing team in Division 4 for sure. Nobody else is going to move the ball like this,” Garza said.

The Rockets, after losing six seniors to graduation— four of them all-conference players — still won the Big East for the third straight season, sans the lost pandemic year, along with a regional title. They were 7-1 in the conference and 17-5 overall.

“I thought it was going to be a rebuilding year. We still came out of it with a conference championship and a trip to the sectional semi, taking a team to double overtime — a very, very, very good team,” Garza said.

Bahr said it was a successful season.

“Overall, we did really good. The seniors held our teams to high standards like we should be,” she said.

Luebke said soccer has given her “probably my favorite memories ever.”

Acevedo called on the young players to continue the recently started winning tradition.

“We’ve done great things and now it’s up to the rest of the team to carry on with those great things,” she said.

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