MOUNT CALVARY — Winnebago Lutheran boys soccer coach David Haag was expecting a defensive battle on Thursday.
Maybe the Vikings’ offense is playing a little better than even he realized.
Three different players scored, including a momentum-boosting goal within the first five minutes, as No. 2 seed Winnebago Lutheran upset top-seeded St. Lawrence Seminary 3-1 on Thursday evening in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal at Mount Calvary — avenging a mid-season loss to the Hilltoppers and moving a game away from state.
“I think our offense has been improving and I think they showed that today,” Haag said. “We got a lot more chances than the first two times we played (St. Lawrence Seminary). The guys are playing sharper, playing better together. The guys were very fired up, too.”
Winnebago Lutheran (19-1-6) advances to a sectional final game Saturday afternoon at Lomira. The Vikings will play the winner of Sturgeon Bay and Kewaunee for the right to go to state.
It took exactly 3 minutes, 42 seconds on Thursday for Winnebago Lutheran to grab the early lead and give itself a whole bunch of confidence. Following a shot and a series of deflections, the Vikings’ Abe Klein was finally able to get enough foot on the ball to nudge it past a frantic Hilltoppers defense and over the goal line.
In the Vikings’ previous two meetings this season with St. Lawrence Seminary — a 1-1 tie and 3-1 loss — they’d struggled to find much offense. With that in mind, getting a goal so early in Thursday’s contest proved to be a huge moment for WLA.
“It definitely helped,” Vikings midfielder Travis Clary said. “It absolutely pumped us up right away to get a goal that early right away in a game like this. It gave us the energy we needed.”
It would stay 1-0 in Winnebago Lutheran’s favor until the 57th minute, when Zach Wright scored on an assist from Josh Thiesfeldt to bump the advantage to two goals. The dagger came about 15 minutes later, with Luke Meihack putting the Vikings up 3-0 on an assist from Wright in the 71st minute.
St. Lawrence Seminary (17-4-1) scored on a Yannick Hernandez penalty kick in the 86th minute, but there would be no comeback from the Hilltoppers.
Winnebago Lutheran’s defense, like usual, played outstanding, especially against St. Lawrence Seminary offensive catalyst Isai Luevano.
“They played the way they’ve played all year,” Haag said. “If we don’t give up penalty kicks, it’s kind of hard for the other team to score. We played very intelligently against Isai Luevano. At the beginning of the game, his strategy seemed to be to play the ball. They tried to isolate him on one guy. … Our guys did a good job of adjusting and giving him more space and staying between him and the goal. I thought we did a good job of containing him.”
In advancing to sectional finals, Winnebago Lutheran will look for a better outcome than last year’s result, in which the Vikings lost in a penalty-kick shootout to Sturgeon Bay to miss out on state in heartbreaking fashion.
Regardless of whether the Vikings get Kewaunee or a rematch with the Clippers, they’ll continue to play their brand of soccer.
“We’ve just got to take it one game at a time and play our best,” Wright said.
“We’ll just play the way we’ve played,” Haag added. “If it’s a team like Sturgeon Bay that’s highly skilled, you’ve got to work really hard on defending all over the field. Pressuring their back line and pressuring their midfield, so they don’t have room to build up. Just defend with all your life.”
Winnebago Lutheran…1 2 — 3
St. Lawrence Seminary…0 1 — 1
First half: WLA— Abe Klein, 3:42.
Second half: WLA— Zach Wright (Josh Thiesfeldt), 56:42. WLA—Luke Meihack (Wright), 70:12. SLS— Yannick Hernandez (PK), 85:53.
Sam Oleson: (920) 907-7930, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow on Twitter @sam_olesonFDL