How many times has the phrase “It’s not how you start but how you finish” been said?
Such was the case with the St. Mary Central girls’ soccer team on Saturday, falling behind 1-0 only to come back and score a 3-1 victory over Regis in a WIAA Division 3 sectional final at Stevens Point.
The victory advances the Zephyrs (18-2-2) to the state tournament for the eighth time in nine years. They will open play at 11 a.m. Friday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee against The Prairie School in a Division 3 semifinal match.
“We got off to a kind of a slow start and (Kristin) Mathiowetz got behind us for a goal,” SMC coach Gary Kruger said. “I think that kind of got us going and we settled down a bit and stuck to our possession game.”
The Zephyrs also made some adjustments to quiet down Mathiowetz.
“We changed the defense slightly just to more deal with her,” Kruger said. “She’s a fine player. We just paid more attention and kept the ball away from that side.”
SMC also tinkered with its attack.
“We had to pick up the pace of the ball and play quicker,” Kruger said. “Regis had a very collapsing defense. We had to focus on getting the ball outside and then working the ball into the middle.”
In the 20th minute, Kelly Conn, one of the Zephyrs’ three 20-plus goal scorers, tied the game at 1-1.
Conn then set up teammate Molly Britt in the 52nd minute.
“Regis keeper (Hannah) Gibbons made some marvelous saves for them,” Kruger said. “We just kept at it until we got it done.”
Conn added a goal in the 63rd minute for the final margin.
Even though the state tournament is nothing new for Kruger, he said it doesn’t lose its special nature.
“It’s a different thing every time,” he said. “It’s always a slightly different team. You’ve got returning people, graduating seniors and the next batch.”
Goals: Kristin Mathiowetz R 13th, Kelly Conn SMC (Haley Thelen) 20th, Molly Britt SMC (Conn) 52nd, Conn SMC (Britt) 63rd. Shots on goal: SMC 19, R 9. Saves: Leah Marker SMC 8, Hannah Gibbons R 16.