Sheboygan North advanced to the sectional final after squeaking by an aggressive Hartford team 2-1 at home.
With about 10 minutes to play, Nick Garbe broke the tie with a driving goal from the right side to put Sheboygan North back on top.
“The defender was leaning inward, so I acted like I was going to go inside,” he said. “I got him off balance and then I went outside. The near post was open and I took the shot.”
The defense held, despite giving up a couple good looks to Hartford and Garbe’s goal proved to be the game winner.
The Golden Raiders held a 24-6 shots on goal advantage, but couldn’t connect on a number of good opportunities and carried a 1-1 tie down to the wire.
Head coach Tim Eirich said the offense will have to do a better job on Saturday if they want to keep advancing.
“Part of it is, we’ve said all season we get six to eight real good looks and we have to make those,” he said. “Tonight, we made one out of probably eight or nine. Against good teams, you can’t give up those opportunities.”
Garbe said the offense was just waiting for the perfect opportunity, and when it came, they took advantage.
“We were trying to be as patient as we possibly could,” he said. “The most important thing is to keep playing the way our team should be playing. We can’t just go for the goal. We still have to play side to side and create opportunities and look for that one play. Patience was key.”
Connor Tresp opened the scoring for Sheboygan North with an early goal to give his team the lead.
Hartford’s Nathaniel Seibold knotted things up in the 29th minute and the score stood at 1-1 until Garbe’s goal in the 80th minute.
“I thought we persevered,” Eirich said. “We didn’t play our best game, but we played against a team that was very inspired coming out here. They were going to do everything they could to win this game, and you have to give them credit for that. I just think we were able to work through a few things and finally put one away.”
The conditions were true to late October, but Eirich said it wasn’t the temperature that proved to be the greatest challenge.
“I don’t think the cold or the wind bothered us, but I have to think the field bothered us a lot,” he said. “It was very, very slick and it’s softer than I thought it was. That probably hurt us. We weren’t able to get a lot of traction.”
With the win secured, Garbe took a moment to acknowledge the quality game Hartford played. They provided Sheboygan North with a true test and the Golden Raiders are better for it.
“They fought and they didn’t give up,” he said. “They didn’t let up for one second. They fought right through. In these games, both teams are very good and it can go either way. Tonight it went our way.”
Ultimately, the win represents a trip to the sectional final, a goal Sheboygan North has focused on all year. It’s been a hurdle the team hasn’t managed to clear in recent years and Garbe said finally advancing was incredible feeling.
“Right now, I’m so shocked,” he said. “I love this team to death and I’m so happy that we finally moved on past this sectional semi-final stage. A win like this is so emotional that you just want to cry. We’re so happy that finally we’ve persevered and shown true character as a team. We’re moving forward.”
It was Eirich who summed it up best though. With red cheeks from the wind and a smile on his face, he rocked back on his heels before describing the team’s collective feeling.
“It feels good,” he said. “It feels really good.”
Sheboygan North will play Arrowhead in the sectional final at 5 p.m. Saturday at Brookfield Central.