The Catholic Memorial boys soccer team, defending Division 2 state champion, earned yet another trip to the state tournament next weekend after a closely fought 2-1 victory over New Berlin West at Pewaukee High School on Saturday.
The winning goal came in the 59th minute as Memorial’s Mark Samuel was knocked down from behind in the New Berlin penalty area. On the resulting penalty kick, Patrick McNulty chose to place the ball to goalkeeper Jesse Steger’s left. Steger got his hands to it but couldn’t keep it out of the goal as the ball ricocheted off of the woodwork and in, giving Memorial the 2-1 lead that they would hold for the remainder of the game.
Memorial’s first goal came just three minutes into the match as Samuel sent in a corner kick that was headed into the goal by senior forward Aaron Horvat.
“He served it in, and I got my head on it and put it in,” said Horvat. “Towards the beginning of the year, we weren’t good at set pieces but we work on them a lot, and now we’re executing.”
The Crusaders continued to pour on the pressure as the half continued and won several more corner kicks, most of which were well delivered, but no one got to the ball to head it goalward.
“We knew they were strong in the air and it showed,” said West head Coach Ryan Otten. “They had a lot of good opportunities off of corner kicks.”
“We had to maintain our shape and get possession," Memorial Coach John Bisswurm added. "We needed to try to get around the touch line and get the service in. In the first half, we had a lot of opportunities doing that; unfortunately we didn’t finish a lot of them, but we were executing what we wanted to.”
Fifteen minutes into the first half, West finally created a few chances as Dino Poulos moved up the wing and into the penalty area. His subsequent shot was blocked, however. A minute later, Brock Shilling sent in a cross that was cleared, and three minutes after that, Kevin Marx sent in a corner kick that only found its way into the hands of Memorial keeper Ryan Zingsheim.
It wasn’t until the restart at the beginning of the second half that the Vikings began to make a serious threat. The Vikings controlled more of the ball and in the 46th minute, Shilling sprinted up the left wing with the ball, beating his marker, and placed the ball perfectly in the upper 90 of the near post to equalize for West.
“Our strength is our outside forwards where we’ve got good speed,” said Otten. “We got early crosses in but they didn’t lead to any shots on goal, and then early in the second half, finally we got one. When we’re more composed, we tend to play well. In the second half we didn’t really make any tactical adjustments; it was more along the lines of keeping composure.”
West continued to create scoring chances until the Crusaders took the lead again off of McNulty’s penalty.
“We anticipated that they were going to come out strong and be aggressive,” said Bisswurm. “When you’re in that situation, you know it’s the last 40 minutes of the season and you just have to give everything you have. We anticipated that and expected that. Unfortunately we weren’t able to weather it in the beginning.”
The Crusaders nearly doubled their lead on a counter-attack in the 60th minute.
Horvat passed the ball to Ryan Allen on the right wing, who sent the ball back across to Horvat, who headed it towards the goal, but this time Steger was there to make the save. As the game wound down, West pressured hard, trying to find a way to tie the score, but the Crusaders defense wouldn’t allow any clear scoring chances, and Zingsheim was well positioned to make the necessary saves to keep his team in front.
The Crusaders move on to the WIAA Division 2 state boys soccer tournament next weekend at Uiehlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.