KIMBERLY — When the final horn sounded in Saturday’s WIAA Division 1 sectional championship girls soccer game between Sheboygan South and De Pere, Redwings sophomore Mimi Pulido dropped to her knees, then went face-first into the dry grass.
To get so close to a coveted berth to State, and come up one game short; it’s hard to get over that right away.
But the Redwings — who lost 3-0 to the Redbirds, earning De Pere its fourth trip to State since 2006 — can still fall back on the great accomplishments the spring season provided.
It’s the first time South (19-4-5) has reached a sectional final. Last year was the first trip to sectional semifinals.
These two teams battled once in Fox River Classic Conference play; De Pere (19-4-3) handed South its lone league loss, a 1-0 affair in a downpour.
Redbirds coach Trish Rhodes admitted she was a little nervous coming in, and made sure to mention to her players that this South team is improved over that one. She added, however, that her squad is also better.
“We didn’t want to worry about them,” said Rhodes. “We just wanted to come out and play our game, and let them worry about us.”
De Pere played with a strong headwind for the first half, and took full advantage. All three goals came during a 12-minute stretch in the latter part of the half. The first caromed off the crossbar and into the goal, the second came from 35 yards out, and the third was from a distance as well.
Still, at halftime, “We had hope,” said senior captain Leeah Rivas. After all, now it was the Redwings’ turn to use the wind to their advantage.
“We were confident going into the second half, because we’d done it before,” said sophomore Rachel Van Sluys, noting last year’s regional final against Green Bay Preble, when South rallied from a 3-1 halftime deficit for a 4-3 overtime win.
But while South had extra chances in the final 40 minutes, De Pere never allowed that great opportunity and played to a stalemate, which was all it needed.
“They took advantage of the wind. We did not use it to our advantage,” said South coach Paul Rivas. “If we could have held our possessions better in the first half, it could have been a different game.
“At this level, you can’t give up three goals to any team,” he added. “This isn’t a regional opener; every team still playing is good.”
Van Sluys, a forward, said it was tough to get a good look because any potentially solid pass from the midfield was thwarted by De Pere’s strong defense.
“The through walls were tough,” said Van Sluys.
While there were more tears than smiles on this blustery Saturday, eventually the opposite will ring true. While the ultimate goal was not achieved, it still goes down as the best season in program history.
“As a senior, it was nice to go further than any team at South,” said Leeah Rivas. “And there are only four seniors, so they have a shot (next year).”