There’s nothing like playing your biggest rival on the state’s grandest stage.
That’s the opportunity the Assumption girls have Thursday afternoon during the WIAA Division 5 state semifinals, when the Royals and Newman Catholic square off on the Resch Center floor.
The teams split their regular season meetings, with the home team winning in their own gym. In the postseason, however, the Cardinals have a 4-1 edge dating back to 2007.
Past results won’t have a factor and the Royals are looking forward to playing their rivals at the state level.
“I think because we’re such big rivals it’s going to be a lot of fun and a great game,” Assumption junior Sadie Zurfluh said. “I think we’re a better team and I think it’s our time because they’ve taken us out all the time in the playoffs.”
Assumption’s most recent playoff victory over Newman came in the 2008 regional finals, with the Royals winning 46-32.
The past three years, Newman has eliminated Assumption, twice in the sectional semifinals and once in the regional championship. The teams did not face each other in 2009.
Dating way back to the Central Wisconsin Catholic Conference, there are no secrets between the two programs.
“We probably know each other better than anyone else,” Royals coach Joe Birkhauser said. “It does make it easy to prepare because of how well we know each other, but I’m sure both of us will have a new wrinkle for Thursday. Some kind of different look or something we will need to be ready for.”
Click here for a recap of Assumption’s win over Seneca.
Birkhauser led the Royals to the WIAA state tournament in 2005 and a pair of WISAA titles in 1998 and 1998.
Newman has had plenty of success at the state tournament as well, winning titles in 2002, 2010 and 2011 and were runners-up in 2005 and 2006.
The girls on this Assumption roster were in middle or grade school the last time the Royals went to state, but many have state tournament experience on the turf of Uihlein Park, site of the state soccer tournament.
“I was fortunate to make it to state for soccer my freshman year and it was the time of my life,” Zurfluh said. “I think this is going to be just as exciting.”
The teams have played each other three times in most seasons and this year the stakes are the highest they’ve ever been.
“A wise man told me once that getting to state is the cake and anything beyond that is the icing,” Birkhauser said. “Our goal isn’t just to make it to state, we want to do something down there. We want the icing.”
Mark Massoglia can be reached at 715-423-7200, ext. 6736. Find him on Twitter @markmazzy.