The Kimberly boys soccer team is one win away from going to the WIAA state tournament.
The No. 3-seed Papermakers upset No. 1 seed Green Bay Preble 2-1 in a Division 1 sectional semifinal on Thursday night at Ted Fritsch Field.
Kimberly is seeking its third trip to state in program history and the first since 2012. Preble was hoping to advance to state for the ninth time and the first since losing to Muskego in the D1 title game in 2013.
“It’s a lot of heart, it’s a lot of heart,” Kimberly coach Carl Gardner said. “We did not play the game we are capable of playing. Narrow fields just seem to have it in for us. But when you have a tough team like Preble, hats off to them. It’s going to take a lot more than just a hard fight. It’s going to take a lot of deep-down heart and willingness to keep fighting along and taking advantage of opportunities.”
Senior midfielder-forward Brad Ludwig played the hero for Kimberly again, scoring the game-winner off an assist from senior midfielder Michael Carreon with 10 minutes, 59 seconds remaining in regulation.
It was Ludwig who helped put the Papermakers in this match after scoring the lone goal in a regional championship against Appleton North on Saturday.
Both teams had opportunities to score. Kimberly was the one to take advantage late.
“I felt like we outplayed them in the second half; I felt we dominated,” Preble coach Chris Becker said. “You could tell they were getting frustrated, and they got us on a counter. Credit to them, they countered on us at the right time. We were pushed up and defensively were out of position.
“Disappointed is an understatement. These guys thought we could hang and play with any team in the state. I don’t know if we should have lost that game or not. That’s sometimes how the ball bounces in soccer.”
Kimberly (14-2-3) took a 1-0 lead with 13:19 left in the first half on a goal by Carreon on an assist by Ludwig.
Preble (17-3-4) had a chance to tie it a few minutes later, but Kimberly goalie Ben Peterson was able to beat Isaac Putzier in a foot race to the ball as Putzier came darting down the field toward the Papermakers’ goal.
But the Hornets weren’t going away.
They finally tied the match at 1 on a goal from junior captain Antonio DeCastro, who got one past Peterson with 39:45 left in regulation.
It was the first goal allowed by Kimberly in the past five matches, and it came from a Preble player who stepped up big for the Hornets in the tournament.
DeCastro also scored the game-winner in the second half of a regional championship showdown against De Pere, and this goal appeared like it might turn the momentum.
Instead, it was Ludwig who took it back for Kimberly and sent it to a sectional championship.
“You can’t create a player like that,” Gardner said. “That’s a personality, that’s a difference-maker. Every team has got one, and we just happened to have ours today. The good thing I can say is, he finishes off but it’s not without the help of the rest of the guys.
“That definitely was a goal to be remembered.”