PRAIRIE DU SAC — The Sauk Prairie High School girls soccer team reached the doorstep Thursday night.
The Eagles will have to wait until Saturday to try to open it for the second time in program history, as a trip to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament will be on the line when second-seeded Sauk Prairie takes on top-seeded Oregon in McFarland.
Sauk Prairie earned a spot in the sectional final for the first time since 2011 with Thursday’s 7-4 home win over third-seeded Monona Grove.
“It’s beyond comprehension, I feel ecstatic about it,” Sauk Prairie midfielder Lexi Tobias said after the win.
The Silver Eagles (11-7-2) came out punching early, putting the Eagles (20-1-2) on their heels for the first 10 minutes of play.
Monona Grove struck first in the seventh minute. Sauk Prairie goalkeeper Bridget Fabian made a diving save, but couldn’t corral the ball, allowing Emma Dyer to run onto it and put it into the open net to give the Silver Eagles a 1-0 lead. Monona Grove became just the seventh team to score against a Sauk Prairie team that has 16 shutouts in 23 games this season.
It didn’t take long for Tobias to get Sauk Prairie going. The junior gave Monona Grove fits along the sideline all night, including cutting from right to left across the top of the penalty box and scoring on a long-range shot that tied the game 10 minutes, 43 seconds into the first half.
“Our hard work and our ability to not give up when the other team scores first,” Tobias said of what allowed the Eagles to shake off the slow start. “We’re just looking to push each other and support each other in any way possible. Just keep each other up instead of giving up.”
Sauk Prairie went to its bread and butter in the 15th minute, as Tobias earned a free kick to the right of the box. Senior midfielder Riley Breunig took it with her right foot and found the head of junior defender Ella Schad, who headed it in to give the Eagles a 2-1 lead. Set pieces have sparked the Eagles throughout the postseason, as all three of their goals came on corner kicks in Saturday’s 3-0 regional final win over Reedsburg.
But Dyer was lurking again in the 28th minute, picking up a rebound and scoring to tie the game at 2.
The scoring barrage briefly subsided, as both teams had chances in the box that were snuffed out. But Tobias wasn’t done, beating a defender on the right side and getting to the top of the box before giving way to Camryn Ballweg, who ran onto it and scored to give Sauk Prairie a 3-2 lead in the 41st minute.
Sauk Prairie’s powerful offense, which entered the day scoring more than four goals per game, really got it going in the second half. Freshman Katelyn Fishnick scored in the 48th minute, then Tobias scored her second goal of the night in the 59th minute.
“Most teams usually revolve around (defending) the center, so I’m usually one of those people who have a fastbreak on the outside,” Tobias said of what she looks to do when she enters the game. “I just try to cross it in and give my team a ball that they can work off of.”
Fishnick gave the Eagles breathing room in the 67th minute, taking an assist from Kelsey Selden and dribbling around Monona Grove goalie Sophie Wendt to score her 45th goal of the season and give Sauk Prairie a 6-2 lead.
“I’d say I’m good at getting into the box and getting around the last defender,” Fishnick said of her strengths offensively. “Getting into the goal instead of outside shots.”
The teams traded goals the rest of the way. Monona Grove’s Gabi Arnold scored in the 68th minute, only for Fishnick to assist Naomi Breunig in the 75th minute for Sauk Prairie’s final goal of the night. Monona Grove’s Vanessa Giallombardo capped off the scoring with an 84th-minute goal that provided the final score of 7-4.
Sauk Prairie scored at least seven goals for the eighth time this season, and second time in three postseason games.
“Our movement on the ball,” Tobias said of what’s going right when the Sauk Prairie offense is humming. “If it’s solid and we’re passing to feet, and we’re talking and communicating and we have a plan. Our coaches stress ‘always have a plan before you get the ball’ and we kept that in mind today.”
“When we start passing to each other and aren’t just kicking it,” Fishnick said. “Once we start passing it, we get into a rhythm. And once we get into that rhythm, we don’t stop.”
The Eagles also gave up a season-high four goals, having allowed just eight total goals entering Thursday.
The Eagles have showed they can win high-scoring games and low-scoring games, but they’re focused on themselves heading into Saturday’s sectional final against unbeaten Oregon (15-0-1), which is coming off a 5-2 win over DeForest. The Eagles, who lost their only state game in 1999, will try to end Oregon’s run of four straight state tournament appearances, which included a runner-up finish last season.
“Just play our best game,” Tobias said of the goal for Saturday. “Play the game we know and not try to match our opponent’s style of play.”
Monona Grove 2 1 — 3
Sauk Prairie 3 3 — 6
First half: MG — Dyer, 6:22. SP — Tobias, 10:43. SP — Schad (R. Breunig), 14:02. MG — Dyer, 28:00. SP — Ballweg (Tobias), 40:10.
Second half: SP — Fishnick, 47:11. SP — Tobias, 58:16. SP— Fishnick (Selden), 66:16. MG — Arnold, 67:30. SP — N. Breunig (Fishnick), 74:39. MG — Giallombardo, 83:46.
Saves: SP (Fabian) 9, MG (Wendt) 10.