By Paul Lecker
MARSHFIELD – The Marshfield girls soccer team started the season 3-5-1 in its first nine games and the first state tournament appearance in program history was far from everyone’s mind.
The Tigers just wanted to find a way to turn things around and salvage their season.
With a pair of shutout wins over Wausau West and Ashwaubenon, and a rare victory over Stevens Point – just the second time in history that they beat the Panthers – the Tigers’ season began to change.
After a nonconference loss, and a tie with Wisconsin Rapids, Marshfield has won eight of its last nine games, including seven in a row and four straight in the WIAA playoffs.
In the string of nine games, throwing out a 5-2 loss to Wisconsin Valley Conference champion D.C. Everest, the Tigers have allowed just four goals and had four shutouts in those nine games and have definitely peaked at the right time.
Marshfield (14-7-2 overall) will take that hot streak into the 2019 WIAA State Girls Soccer Tournament at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee where it will play Whitefish Bay (23-1) in a Division 2 semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Thursday. Oregon (16-0-1) will take on Brookfield East (8-12-1) in the other semifinal at 7 p.m., with the winners playing for the D-2 state title at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
“I’m expecting some pretty good offense from (Whitefish Bay),” junior defender and co-captain Ana Paape said. “I’m hoping to be able to keep up our communication, and to be able to pass easily and transition through the midfield better.”
Marshfield was able to crank up the defensive pressure in the second half of the season, earning six shutouts and allowing only one goal six other times since that win over Wausau West on April 25.
“We have a lot of good skills, but the fact that our team works so well together and we are such good friends really helps us to work together,” senior defender and co-captain Eva Wahlstrom said. “I think that’s what really made us to get this far this year.
“Our communication has been great (on defense). Ana is in the back. She does a great job of starting the communication there and spreading it on down our defense. We know who to watch, who to stay on, which kind of lets us shutdown our opponents.”
Coach Steve Lindner said the team’s recent success has been a culmination of some of the basics.
“We really stepped up the passing, trapping and spacing,” Lindner said. “We stressed that and make it, maybe, over-simplified. Pass quickly to a teammate, make that quick trap, and move into space where you can be an option, and then transition from offense to defense. The girls are really getting it and working hard at moving quickly with or without the ball.”
Marshfield boasts a mixed roster experience-wise, with six seniors, seven juniors and seven sophomores.
The team’s top two scorers are both underclassmen. Junior Nina Hashimoto set a new school record for goals (38) and points (84) in a season, and sophomore Kate Schilling is second in scoring with 12 goals and six assists.
Paape, a first-team all-Wisconsin Valley Conference selection, and goalkeeper Mikayla Brueggen, another junior, have spearheaded the defense. Brueggen finished the year with a 1.65 goals-against average, and an 81.7 save percentage.
“Everybody is doing their part with communication and trusting each other with what their position is,” Brueggen said. “I really trust my defense. They’ve been amazing and have listened to me. That’s been huge.”
In addition to Paape and Wahlstrom, defenders Paige Gruenling, Cassidy Kolstad and Ally Bakke, and midfielders Sophia Gruenling, Amara Arndt, Nicole Simon, Courtney Meyer and Paige Preston, among others, have made it tough on opponents to find a way to even get to Brueggen.
“With the defense, they aren’t flashy but very reliable and steady,” Lindner said. “We’ve got six defenders in the rotation and they all do the job, and I feel comfortable with any of them in there at any time. Everybody is doing their job.”
For Simon, a co-captain and a senior, being the first girls soccer team to reach the state tournament is a great way to cap off her days as a Tiger.
“It means a lot to us,” Simon said. “We didn’t really go into the season – we knew we were going to make it far but we didn’t know we were going to make it this far. It’s been really exciting for us. I’m very excited and very proud of our whole team.”
All of the semifinals will be streamed live on the WIAA.TV portal of the NFHS Network, with a subscription. The Division 3 championship final will be televised at 11 a.m. on Fox Sports Wisconsin, and the Division 2 and 1 finals will be on Fox Sports Wisconsin Plus at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m., respectively. The Division 4 championship game will be on either FS Wisconsin (if Brewer coverage has completed) or on FS Wisconsin Plus, at 7 p.m.
Watch for full recaps of Marshfield’s action at state here at MarshfieldAreaSports.com.
2019 WIAA State Girls Soccer Tournament
June 13-15, at Uihlein Soccer Park, Milwaukee
Thursday, June 13
Division 3 Semifinals
No. 1 Waukesha Catholic Memorial (23-4-1) vs. No. 4 Ashland (20-2-2), 11 a.m.
No. 2 Madison Edgewood (17-2-2) vs. No. 3 Green Bay Notre Dame (13-6-3), 1:30 p.m.
Division 2 Semifinals
No. 1 Whitefish Bay (23-1) vs. No. 4 Marshfield (14-7-2), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 Oregon (16-0-1) vs. No. 3 Brookfield East (8-12-1), 7 p.m.
Friday, June 14
Division 1 Semifinals
No. 1 Waunakee (18-2-2) vs. No. 4 Muskego (15-4-3), 11 a.m.
No. 2 Bay Port (21-2) vs. No. 3 Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels (13-6-4), 1:30 p.m.
Division 4 Semifinals
No. 1 Racine The Prairie School (16-3-2) vs. No. 4 Kettle Moraine Lutheran (14-11), 4:30 p.m.
No. 2 Oostburg (18-1-3) vs. No. 3 Neenah St. Mary Catholic (18-5), 7 p.m.
Saturday, June 15
Division 3, 11 a.m.
Division 2, 1:30 p.m.
Division 1, 4:30 p.m.
Division 4, 7 p.m.
Paul Lecker is publisher of MarshfieldAreaSports.com, a contributor to OnFocus sports.