After falling behind by a goal, the University School girls soccer team rallied quickly and went on to defeat Martin Luther 3-1 in the opening round of the WIAA Division 3 state tournament Regionals held Thursday at the Uihlein Soccer Complex.
It was the last day of May but it felt like mid-November, and in the opening moments of the game, the Wildcats’ responses to the action seemed glacial. USM survived an early scare when Martin Luther freshman Natalie Campbell missed a penalty kick in the game’s fifth minute.
The Wildcats weren’t as lucky in the twentieth minute. Spartan senior Jacqueline Balgeman outraced a USM defender for the ball chipped down the field by Campbell. Balgeman dribbled in on a short breakaway. USM’s junior goalkeeper Caity Prewitt moved out to stop the play, but Balgeman pulled the ball around her and touched it into the net, giving Martin Luther a 1-0 lead.
The Spartans’ goal jolted the Wildcats to life. They tied the game less than two minutes later. Senior Libby Aik got the ball in midfield and sent it into space ahead of freshman Kate Nosbusch who was speeding down the left side. Near the 18-yard line, Nosbusch cut in and raced past a Martin Luther defender. She then hammered her shot like a nail into Martin Luther’s goal at 22:12.
USM’s head coach, Patrick Flanagan, commented on the quick turnaround. “I was proud of the way we changed the momentum after their first goal. We scored right away and started playing our type of game.”
Flanagan was also proud of the fact that the Wildcats scored their second goal early in the second half. “We played well in the second half. We scored early and made them change their style of play to fit ours. We dominated the game after that.”
USM’s second goal came at 45:45 as a result of a corner kick opportunity. Senior Emily Hendrickson boomed a long cross that bounced to her classmate Sally James on the far side of the Spartans’ goal. James turned the ball out to Aik near the top of the penalty area. Aik one-touched a shot that sailed in a hyperbolic curve like the St. Louis Arch over the head of Martin Luther’s sophomore goalie Cierra Wood.
The goal caused a surge in the Wildcats’ efforts, and they played their ball control style for the remainder of the half. Martin Luther got the ball into the USM area several times, but tough defense by James, Aik, their classmates Erika Hurth, Ellie Wigdale, and Maggie Schroeder, sophomore Catherine Jacobus and freshman Merrill Read kept the Spartans in check.
USM sealed the victory with a goal in the last six minutes of the game. Nosbusch took a pass from senior Jenna Seter, sprinted down the sideline, and centered the ball to sophomore Amber Baker. Baker one-timed it like bullet from gun past Wood to give USM a 3-1 lead at 74:48.
In the game Wood made 8 saves for Martin Luther, while Prewitt made 5 saves for USM.
The loss ended Martin Luther’s season with a record of 8-10. USM’s record is now 12-7. The Wildcats will play the Regional Final against Racine St. Catherine’s at The Prairie School in Racine at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday.
(Thanks to Margaret Bodalski and Julia Hanson for their help in preparing this report).