Lasers remain second in command, fall to Marquette in final
Everyone in attendance believed a round of applause was certainly fitting.
And why not? For the second consecutive season, the Kettle Moraine Lasers squared off with heavily favored Milwaukee Marquette in the WIAA Division 1 state boys soccer championship match at Uihlein Soccer Park.
Lasers Athletic Director Mike Fink even brought Captain Laser along to lead the cheering section.
Uihlein Park was abuzz on Oct. 27 with upset-minded Kettle Moraine fans hoping their team could knock off the mighty Hilltoppers, owners of eight state championships (including the last two) since moving over from the defunct WISSA ranks. The tournament marked the 13th consecutive time a Marquette team qualified for the Division 1 state tourney.
The Lasers played extremely well but up on the short end of a 2-1 decision on the Uihlein turf. Last year, Kettle Moraine (16-5-4) was overrun by the Hilltoppers 6-0 in the same spot.
Kettle Moraine struck first, scoring 42 seconds after kickoff when junior halfback Andy Chmielewski stole a pass and got the angle on a Marquette defender. He quickly obtained a clear path to the goal, lacing a winner past Marquette senior goalie Roman Vassel for a 1-0 lead.
From there, the Lasers appeared to lean on their defense, which has played its best soccer in the postseason since getting healthy on the back line. Junior Anthony Biasiotta, senior Kevin Winter, senior Tony Covelli and junior Alex Eichstaedt have played passionate soccer lately.
The Hilltoppers (23-1-2 and undefeated in Wisconsin the past two seasons) were able to flood the box as the game wore on, but they weren't able to tie the game until the 32nd minute, as Kettle Moraine successfully turned back several advances. At that point, Marquette earned a free kick from the wing just outside the 18-yard box.
Senior forward Joe Kennedy took the free kick into the box, where a sea of bodies from both teams gathered in front of Kettle Moraine senior goalie Kyle Ihn. The attempt was taken by junior defender Quinn English, who touched it to senior defender Mike Wabiszewski, who headed the ball into the net for a 1-1 tie.
Thirty-two minutes later, the Hilltoppers got the game winner. After several chances, the defending champions broke through with a goal from senior midfielder Jacob Grindel on a cross from junior forward Jackson Weiss.
From there, the Lasers pushed a few more players into the attack along with Chmielewski, but the Hilltoppers didn't waver.
"We hoped to get a break and get one, but this is Marquette, and they responded, possessing the ball, seeing the field and spreading the field," Kettle Moraine head boys soccer coach Greg Prospero said.
Kettle Moraine lost the shots-on-goal battle, 26-6. Marquette ended up with eight corner kicks, six more than the Lasers. Ihn pulled in 10 saves for Kettle Moraine.
Covelli felt he was lost in the shuffle last year after being ruled out of action with injury in last year's championship match. That got fixed on Saturday.
"We wanted to get back here," Prospero said. "All year, the guys have rallied behind the fact he thought he missed out on something last year, so that in itself is a really nice story."
On the other side stood Kettle Moraine head girls soccer coach Will Loepfe, one of the Marquette assistants, in a tough spot around Halloween the past two years.
"This is great for the Kettle Moraine Community, its great for the sport as a whole and soccer at Kettle Moraine," Loepfe said. "Had we not been in this game today, I absolutely would have been rooting for Kettle Moraine to win the state championship. To go to the state finals two years in a row is a huge accomplishment. Greg's done a great job with his program, a top five program year in and year out."
KM tops Bradford in semi
The Lasers semifinalhurdle came Friday against Kenosha Bradford, where KM pulled out a 1-0 victory. Senior halfback Bret Perinovic scored in the 37th minute. Junior John Schwalbach had the assist on a corner kick, an area where the Lasers edged the Red Devils (21-5-1), 5-3.
Brandon Strobel, a sophomore forward and the team's leading scorer, had two quality chances on goal against Kenosha Bradford. Schwalbach and junior halfback Chris Trafton also had attempts on frame in Friday's match.
Strobel's steal off a free kick in the 78th minute iced the game for Kettle Moraine.
Ihn ended up with five saves.
"We practice corner kicks all year, and it comes down to finishing them," Perinovic said. "It was a great ball by John, and our defense just came together again tonight. It's not just our back line; it's everyone coming together."
The other departing senior to the Kettle Moraine soccer program is halfback Reed Dessart.
Lasers beat wind, Rockets
The Lasers got a goal with the wind as its ally in the first half, then successfully fended off Neenah en route to a 1-0 win in Thursday's quarterfinal.
Neenah (18-5-1) was getting plenty opportunities, especially early in the second half with the wind toward the north goal, where Ihn finished with six of his 10 saves. The two teams tied earlier this year at the Kettle Moraine Quad, 1-1.
"You can use all the accolades you want about that young man (Ihn) but what it comes down to is hard work and dedication," Prospero said. "His character and drive has been there the whole year."
Neenah figured its fate to be better in the second half.
"I thought the wind was going to be our friend in the second half," said Neenah head coach Harry Kelderman. "I thought we fought them (KM) valiantly in the first half. I thought we took over the game in the second half, but unfortunately we didn't get the results we wanted. They're goalkeeper did a fabulous job for them."
"With our defense, there are not a lot of cracks," Prospero said. "If you try to go over the top, we're fast, if you try to go through the middle, we're physical. They played really well today."
The Lasers got the game's only goal at the 19:08 mark. Trafton served a ball into the six-yard box that was headed into the net past Neenah junior goalie Hunter Alderton by Strobel.
With the wind, Prospero thought at least two goals were needed to advance against a team that scored at least one goal in 19 straight games.
"Watching the game before us (Oregon verses Kenosha Bradford), I told our guys we've got to get two," Prospero said. "But one was enough today because our defense dug in and held on."
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