Early in Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 State Girls Soccer Tournament title game, The Prairie School got physical with Ozaukee senior midfielder Katie Bares in an attempt to slow her down.
It didn’t work.
Bares finished with two goals and one assist and Ozaukee earned a 3-1 win at Time Warner Cable Stadium at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee for its fourth state title in six appearances.
“(The game) was physical and it didn’t rattle us too much,” Ozaukee coach Eric Liebergen said. “I was concerned about Katie accumulating all those hard blows, but she sucked it up like she has all year and found a way to play through it. She has the heart of a champion.”
Within the first 10 minutes, the Hawks had committed six of their 18 fouls on Bares, but the Warriors — who had six fouls all game — kept their offensive rhythm and in the 11th minute Bares scored the game’s first goal on an assist by senior defender Mickey Burns.
“It’s always good to be the first ones to score and that’s how we want it to be. Just coming out and scoring, it felt really good,” Bares said. “I just overcome people hitting me. I just try to get better touches and work around it.”
Following the goal The Prairie School (15-7-2) looked rattled on defense, and less than three minutes later a corner kick by Bares resulted in a goal by Burns to give Ozaukee (21-1-2) the 2-0 lead.
Having not lost all season when scoring two or more goals, the Warriors switched to the same defensive strategy similar to what they used in their 1-0 sectional final and semifinal victories.
“We didn’t know how we wanted to match up against Prairie, they are so talented all over the field with their speed and their passing, so we decided to play straight up (to start),” Liebergen said. “After the second goal, I trusted them and knew we wouldn’t give up an easy goal if we defended correctly. We knew if they couldn’t split us up the middle then we could defend any shots they were taking outside the box.”
The Prairie School had 15 shots and eight on goal while Ozaukee had five shots from Bares — three on goal — and two by Burns, with one on goal. The Hawks had 11 shots in the second half while each team had three corner kicks in the game.
Senior Erika Karrels had seven saves in what Liebergen called one of the better performances of her high school career. That included a diving stop in the 20th minute when The Prairie School had a breakaway chance, as well as two saves in the first two minutes of the second half on shots inside Ozaukee’s box.
At 73:33, Bares put the game out of reach as she dribbled the ball from the sideline and beat three defenders on her way into the box to notch her second goal, giving Ozaukee a commanding 3-0 lead.
“I was just amazed that I even got in (to the box) and got that goal so it was an amazing feeling,” Bares said. “It was an awesome feeling knowing they probably wouldn’t have enough time to score (three more) goals.”
For most of the game Ozaukee’s defense succeeded in shutting down The Prairie School’s sophomore forward Annabel Ware, who had 26 goals in 22 regular-season games. But Ware took the shutout away from Karrels after scoring on an assist from senior midfielder Melissa Rooney in the 76th minute.
“We knew we weren’t going to keep them off the board. Erika did a great job all game but Prairie is a really good offensive team,” Liebergen said. “We wanted to make sure, with (Ware’s) speed and ability to allude defenders, that she would have to get through two or three of our defenders to make (a goal). They executed everything we needed them to.”
This was the Warriors’ first finals appearance since since 2007, which at the time was the Warriors’ fifth straight state tournament bid. The Warriors won state titles in 2003, ’05 and ’06. The Prairie School has been runners-up now five times, including in 2003, ’04, ’10 and last year.
“(Being champions) is an awesome feeling,” Bares said. “We worked so hard as a team this season and to come through and win is unbelievable. I can’t even describe it.”