It is never too early to start thinking about WIAA sectional seeding in the mind of Blue Dukes coach Robert Williams.
That is why he saw the glass as half-full after his team forged a hard-fought 2-2 tie with visiting Divine Savior Holy Angels, the state's top-ranked team, April 8.
"We saw a lot of things to work on, which is a good thing," said Williams, whose team started the season tied for seventh in the state poll. "And with Greendale, DSHA and us all in the same sectional, they (the Dashers) would have gotten the number one seed for sure if they had won that game. So, it was good to see where we stand against the best team in the state."
The tie, coupled with a 8-0 North Shore Conference win over Milwaukee Lutheran on April 7, moved Bay to 5-0-2.
The Blue Dukes, who were missing six players due to a school trip to Spain, took the lead against DSHA (6-0-2) in the 25th minute on a goal from Lydia Kaminsky (Abby Starker assist). The Dashers, however, tied the score 11 minutes later.
DSHA took the lead scarcely two minutes into the second half before Ellie Schroeder scored the tying goal 11 minutes later.
Bay goalkeeper Olivia Hoff made seven saves.
"After we scored I liked the speed of play, the way we linked passes between our forwards and our movement off the ball," Williams said. "But more than anything technical, I liked the way we competed, especially against some serious adversity, because for a lot of the game I thought they were getting the better of the play."
Williams said the team needed a game of this caliber this early.
"I was proud of the girls and how they competed here," he said. "It's also fun coaching against certain coaches and I consider (DSHA's) Kevin (Roethe) one of the good guys."
Abby Starker had four goals against visiting Lutheran while Michaela Cohen, Kylie Davidson, Kaminsky and Kaitlin Theder all had one each for the Blue Dukes.
The Highlanders got the North Shore portion of their schedule formally rolling with a 3-1 decision over host Grafton on April 7.
Homestead (4-0-1), who will resume play on Tuesday, April 21 at Nicolet, had to rally for the road win.
Grafton hit Homestead with a goal in the 29th minute, but the Highlanders tied it up just nine minutes later on a score from Morgan Lang (Kate Wirthlin assist).
Twelve minutes into the second half, Sam Gehl got the gamewinner unassisted. She later added an insurance goal with help from Lindsay Jagla.
Homestead outshot Grafton, 11-7, and Highlanders goalkeeper Katie Kerkman made four saves.
With only four experienced hands back from last year, Nicolet coach Tony Quintero has been encouraged by the junior-dominated Knights' 3-4 start that includes a 2-0 league win over Port Washington and a 4-0 nonconference triumph over University School.
"We have a lot of young and improving talent out there and what's helping is that we have great chemistry," Quintero said. "These kids are infinitely coachable. They're hungry to learn and improve."
Experienced players back for Nicolet, all seniors, are captain Kelsey Finn, Michaela Simon, Sarah Guffy and Casey Rifkin. There are 12 juniors on the roster.
Quintero has been pleased with the offense and noted that sophomore Emily Spector, Finn, Guffy and junior Jennifer Winston are all proven scorers.
"They can go left to right, put it on line with pace and finish," he said.
In the decision over visiting USM, the defending WIAA Division 3 champion, April 9, the Knights got two goals apiece from Spector and Finn while Sarah Barth made 11 saves. Nicolet outshot the Wildcats, 19-6.
Against host Port on April 7, Spector (Tierney Snow assist) and Finn got second-half goals as Nicolet outshot the Pirates, 15-5.
- Steven L. Tietz,
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