If it’s the WIAA Division girls’ state soccer tournament, it’s pretty much a given that Xavier will be there.
When the Hawks go up against Mount Horeb in Friday’s Division 2 semifinal, it will be their fourth straight appearance at state. It will also be the Hawks’ 10th appearance in 11 years. Xavier won championships in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
The Hawks advanced to the state tournament with a forfeit victory over Two Rivers in the regional semifinals, a 6-0 win over Wrightstown in the regional final, a 5-1 win over Campbellsport in the sectional semifinal and 3-0 win over Waupaca in the sectional final.
Behind all that winning is a winning tradition.
In addition to regular appearances at the state tournament, six players on the Hawks’ roster — Rachel Lauterbach, Kayla Gresl, Meg and Meredith Haas, Maria Schmitt and Fallon Peplinski — have had siblings play on the team during coach Bill Peplinski’s tenure.
Lauterbach had one sister, Erin, play for coach Peplinski and one, Carrie, for coach Steve Kappell.
“I’ve been down there so many times watching them,” Lauterbach said. “It’s just been cool to go down there and watch them. Now I’ve been able to do it on my own. They’ve said, ‘Don’t take it for granted.’ I’m sure they would die to go back.”
Maria Schmitt’s older sister Emily loved playing soccer for the Hawks but a torn ACL ended her soccer career.
“It made me realize that I can’t take this sport for granted,” Maria Schmitt said. “I look up to Emily. She never took it for granted and gave it her all.”
Emily still pitches in with advice.
“When she’s watching the game now, she can pick up on things I never noticed before, like our passing sequences,” Maria said. “She’ll talk to me after the game. She really knows a lot about the game and she’s helped me a lot.”
Fallon Peplinski, who leads the Hawks in scoring with 25 goals and 28 assists, is part of a soccer-playing family, with sisters Kaitlin, Bryna, Jenna and Tessa. Fallon got to play for Xavier with Tessa but said that however well an older sister plays the game, there is a desire to do better.
“Whatever bar they set, you want to exceed,” Fallon Peplinski said. “It’s the same for other girls. Others want to perform their best, too. It really contributes to our success.”
Having Tessa on the team when Fallon joined was a blessing.
“It was nice to have an older sister on the team to help show me the ropes,” Fallon Peplinski said. “There were five freshmen on the team my freshman year. We all looked up to them (the upperclassmen) and they were all nice to us. They told us, ‘You’re on the team for a reason.’ “
Lauterbach is one of nine seniors who will be finishing their Xavier soccer careers on the artificial turf of Uihlein Soccer Park. To prepare for a turf surface, the Hawks practiced on Tuesday on the artificial surface at Kimberly’s Papermaker Stadium.
“We’ve been working hard,” said Lauterbach. “It (the turf) has a faster pace. You don’t get as many weird bounces. And we spent the beginning of the year practicing in the gym, getting faster ball skills.”
Mount Horeb, like Xavier, has allowed just one goal in the postseason.
“I don’t know who they’ve played,” Lauterbach said. “I’m just going in expecting they’ll be the best team we’ve played so far.”
In the other Division 2 semifinal, Catholic Memorial will take on Ashland.
— Jim Oskola: 920-993-1000, ext. 230, or email@example.com