With some of her recent free kicks not going where she’d like, Ozaukee midfielder Katie Bares decided to aim a little lower on one at the 16-minute mark of Saturday’s WIAA Division 3 State Girls Soccer Tournament semifinal game against Lake Country Lutheran/University Lake/Trinity Academy.
The decision led to what ultimately became the game-winning score for Ozaukee (20-1-2), as Bares’ kick bounced off a pair of Lake Country (15-2-1) defenders and into the back of the net for an own-goal in the Warriors’ 1-0 win at Time Warner Cable Stadium at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
“I didn’t really see what happened because I saw the other team hit it and then saw the ball go backwards. I thought it was going to go forwards, but it went in so it was really cool,” Bares said. ” I was trying to keep the ball low to get it into someone’s head so they could get it in, which happened but just by the other team. My main focus was to keep it down at head height and aim for the back corner so someone could get a head on it.”
In the game’s opening minutes, the Warriors came out aggressive and, six minutes in, Natalie Clark’s shot hit the goal post after a cross pass from Emily Janke.
But after the early score, Ozaukee coach Eric Liebergen decided to switch up the team’s strategy and went with a plan that had been effective for the Warriors in its 1-0 sectional final win over Cedar Grove-Belgium — sit on the one-goal lead.
The Warriors finished with three shots — one on goal — while the defending champion Lake Country co-op ended with nine shots — five on goal. Ozaukee was outshot 8-1 in the second half, and Erika Karrels made five saves in the game for the Warriors.
“Lake Country showed the strength of their midfield play. They connected on passes well. We just needed to make sure we were back defensively, keep the ball in front of us and don’t give them any easy avenues,” Liebergen said. “I was real happy with our defense collectively working together. … We wanted to make sure we wouldn’t give them any easy (shots). It’s nerve-wracking sitting on a one-goal lead, but it’s what we felt we needed to do.”
Ozaukee’s best chances to add a cushion came in the 48th minute when one of Bares’ two shots in the game hit a goal post.
“I thought we were able to get deep on them and we were ready to get deep crosses and that sort of attack when we had the opportunities,” Liebergen said. “We just wanted to make it difficult for them to find any good offensive opportunities.”
With the win, Ozaukee advances to take on The Prairie School (15-6-2) today at 10 a.m. The Hawks advanced by defeating St. Mary Central (18-3-2) 5-2. The finals appearance will be Ozaukee’s first 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 four times, including in 2003, ’04, ’10 and last year.
“(Reaching the championship) is amazing. Our team has put so much time into the season. We are super close and it’s fun to play with everyone, so it’s awesome to be here together as a team,” Bares said. “We have wanted to get here, we believed we could get here, and finally being here is awesome.”