Whitefish Bay dominated the run of play, had many more shots on goal, corner kicks and free kicks than Cedarburg did in the WIAA State Division 2 soccer semifinal Friday afternoon at Uihlein Soccer Park.
But the Blue Dukes North Shore rivals converted on two set pieces, one off a corner kick and another off a free kick and that was enough to oust Bay from its first state tournament berth in 10 years by a 2-1 count.
"It's been a focus for us the last month of the season," said Bulldog coach Patrick Sorensen of the set pieces. "We came up huge with them today. We had to be able to defend them well and we had to be aggressive and convert our opportunities when we had the chance (offensively)."
The victory propelled the Bulldogs (15-4-2) into the WIAA State Division 2 final on Saturday against Oregon, which defeated Marshfield in the second D2 semifinal. It also avenged a 2-0 win Bay earned over Cedarburg earlier this fall en route to the Blue Dukes' North Shore Conference championship.
Bay (17-6) was denied its first finals' opportunity since that last state berth in 2003 when it lost the D2 final to Appleton Xavier, 4-2.
"Most of the game we had the better of the opportunities," said Blue Duke coach Jeff Worzella, "but they made good on the chances they did have. Sometimes soccer is that way, you get a lot of chances, but the ball simply doesn't go in."
The stats bore out the truth of his statements, as the Blue Dukes outshot the Bulldogs by an 18-8 count and had five corner kicks as compared to just two for Cedarburg.
But the Bulldogs converted the first of those corner kicks late in the first half, as forward Josh Boris put his corner to the center-left of the box where midfielder Zach Filtz picked it out of a scrum and deftly knocked into the right side of the net for a 1-0 lead at the 35:35 mark.
"Getting one late in the first half like that was a huge confidence builder," said Sorensen.
Obviously, Worzella saw it differently.
"That was a very difficult goal to take," he said. "They did a great job executing it."
Bay, which had outshot Cedarburg 6-3, in the first half, kept the pressure on, but then the Bulldogs struck again with another set piece early in the second half. Defender Joe Sakmar gave Cedarburg a 2-0 lead when he curled in a free kick from about 22 yards out into the far left corner of the net at the 50:32 mark.
"That was just a very well-placed ball," said Worzella.
But despite the 2-0 deficit, the Blue Dukes did not quit. They had entered the game handicapped as leading goal scorer senior forward Jack Menard had to sit out the game with an injury suffered in the sectional final win over Brookfield East six days ago.
"You don't replace someone like Jack but I thought everyone did a great job of picking up the slack," said Worzella.
Bay's tenacity finally paid off in the 71st minute, as senior midfielder Zach Heller picked a rebound in front of the left side of the Cedarburg and snapped it in to close the gap to 2-1.
Just prior to that, Blue Duke keeper Aiden Chiappa had heartened Bay's dimming hopes by coming well out and stuffing what looked like a clean Bulldog breakaway with a great save.
Immediately following Heller's shot, the Blue Dukes kept the momentum, and had a couple of point blank shots, the best of which was pushed over the bar.
Cedarburg was deep into defensive mode at this point and struggled to hang on, even picking up a yellow card in the final minutes.
But hang on the Bulldogs did and earned their first finals' berth since their division I championship season of 1996, which was also their last appearance at state.
"We knew that was coming, what with the quality of their players," said Sorensen of the push. "We weren't quite sitting back, but we had to adjust to their pressure."
Worzella was proud of his team but unstandably frustrated.
"We had a lot of corner kicks and a lot of free kicks," he said. "We just kept the pressure on, but they won a lot of balls in the air and that really hurt us."
'This was a great run. Bay is a talent-rich program. Hopefully we'll work hard next year and see if we can't get back. I thank the seniors for all they did this season. It was a really great time coaching them."
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