Huskies fall to eventual state champions

by Craig Hoffman Tri-County News

MILWAUKEE — The New Holstein girls soccer team brought home a silver trophy from the state tournament one year ago. They wanted to bring another trophy home this year. This time a gold one.

However, a first-half goal by Mikaela Schlesinger off a corner kick proved to be a back-breaker and La Crosse Aquinas held off New Holstein for a 1-0 victory in a Division 4 semifinal match at the state tournament on Time Warner Cable Field of Milwaukee’s Uihlein Soccer Complex Thursday afternoon.

The win put Aquinas into Saturday’s state championship match opposite Lake Country Lutheran/University Lake School, who defeated Brookfield Academy in an overtime shootout following a scoreless regulation and two scoreless overtime halves.

Aquinas won the state title on a penalty kick shoot-out to finish 19-2-3.

The Huskies got the first opportunity to score and it came via a Nikki Reese corner kick just two minutes in. The kick was headed out of the 18-yard box by the Blugolds and the opportunity came up empty.

Aquinas held NH strikers Shelly Van Grinsven and Karissa Preston in check through the first 45 minutes.

At the 31st minute, the Blugolds capitalized on their corner kick opportunity. Schlesinger’s kick hooked perfectly into the wind, the ball took a high hop off the field turf and found its way into the net for what would be the only score of the match.

NH head coach Nate Laabs said things weren’t going his teams’ way.

“You think you’re prepared for everything and you come out, and it’s just not working. We knew coming in that Aquinas had a good defense and you can’t get behind against a good defense.”

The Huskies attacked more in the second half with a strong wind at their backs but Aquinas was able to hold back the Huskies. The game also got more physical.

“I think we do okay in physical contests,” added Laabs.

“They were just so quick in getting to the ball.”

Tori Zipperer’s shot was deflected out front just a minute into the second half and Reese put a follow-up shot on goal, the first save for Blugold goalie Akyah Steiner, who has allowed just four goals all season and has a 0.20 goals against average. She had 18 shutouts on the year and the blanking of NH was her seventh in a row.

“We played a great second half, but you have to give them credit. Aquinas defended everything. They earned it. They’re an excellent team,” says the veteran NH coach.

Steiner gave way to backup goalie Sydney Ion about midway through the second half. Both had two saves. Ally Schleh had five for the Huskies.

The New Holstein defense, anchored by sweeper Hailee Olson, along with Summer Lahti, Nicole Birschbach and midfielders Viktoria Silva, Megan Hickey, Karley Krupp, Reese and Zipperer, made it tough for the Aquinas offense to generate many attacks.

Laabs said weather conditions altered his strategy.

“We subbed a lot in the first half because it was hot and we were just trying to keep everybody fresh. When things started clicking in the second half we substituted less,” said Laabs.

Also seeing action for NH were Jenna Meyer, Rachel Hansen, Sara Luebke, Hannah Krupp, Hannah Schwartz and Julia Danes.

As always, that final team speech is a tough one for Laabs.

“We had a lot of seniors and they have played a lot of games. But to make it back to state is such an accomplishment. There’s not too many players that can say they played in backto back state tournaments and our seniors can leave feeling they’ve accomplished something that doesn’t happen very often.”

New Holstein ends its year at 15-6-5.

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