The Green Bay Notre Dame and Seymour girls’ soccer teams always seem to meet at this time of year, and in recent seasons things have gone the Tritons’ way.
That didn’t change on Thursday night.
Notre Dame eliminated the Thunder from the playoffs for the third straight season with a 1-0 victory in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal at Ted Fritsch Field.
The two have met in the sectionals four years in a row. The Thunder beat Notre Dame in 2010 but have been shut out in the last three playoff meetings, including back-to-back 1-0 losses.
“We need to turn this around. That’s how I feel,” said Seymour coach Todd Messner. “I feel like we matched up well against them. We missed our opportunity a couple times, but we have to give them credit. They had the free kick where we froze (and) they had someone there to take advantage of it. That’s what it came down to.”
The Tritons got all the offense they needed at the 16:07 mark of the first half. Senior midfielder Katie Fife tapped home what was essentially an empty net goal following a rebound off a shot by junior defender Annika Kussow.
Kussow took a quick pass off a free kick by senior defender Ella Keenan. The Seymour defense seemed to be caught off guard and Kussow had a wide-open look at the goal — one of the few clean attempts for either team.
Kussow’s ball hit the far post, rolled along the goal line and hit the other post. Fife swooped in and made sure the Tritons would take a lead they never would relinquish before Thunder goalkeeper Maddie Plinska or any of the Seymour defenders could recover.
“It was amazing. She hit that perfectly and I think it was inside of the post,” Fife said of Kussow’s shot. “I think it was in (but) I just made sure that it counted.”
Seymour had a couple of chances at an equalizer, but the Tritons defense rose to the occasion when it was necessary.
The Thunder got a free kick on a foul just outside the goalie box with just under 10 minutes left in the first half. Sophomore forward Kelsey Kominowski drilled a shot around the Tritons wall that looked headed for the corner of the net, but Notre Dame goalie Gabrielle Woleske made a diving save.
The last real chance to tie the game for Seymour came with two minutes left in the second half on another free kick from just outside the box. This time the Thunder’s shot hit the Notre Dame wall and the Tritons were able to clear the rebound and hold on from there.
“Our defense really stepped up. We stopped what they could throw at us and Gabby (Woleske) really played well,” said Notre Dame coach Bob Rickards. “She’s come along and she’s just a junior, so we’ve got a whole other year of watching her play.”
The Tritons will now attempt to earn their third straight state berth – ninth overall – as they take on Ashland in Saturday’s sectional final at Stevens Point.
“I can’t imagine not going to state. We’ve gone two years and this year would just be the cherry on top of a great season,” Fife said.