WIND POINT – As his Prairie School soccer team was wearing down yet another opponent Saturday afternoon, coach Corey Oakland suddenly blurted out to no one in particular, “My kingdom for a warm breeze!”
Nearby Lake Michigan ensured that never happened, keeping The Ruud Family Soccer Complex refrigerated throughout the afternoon.
Still, Oakland was warmed by a different kind of heat and this meant so much more to him. That was generated by the Hawks (16-3-2), who defeated Kenosha St. Joseph 6-1 in a WIAA Division 4 sectional championship.
Kate McPhee and Cate Patterson each scored three goals to lead the Hawks into the state tournament for the first time since 2016, when they became the first girls program from Racine County to win a championship.
Prairie, the top-rated Division 4 team in the state by the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association poll, opens Friday against a team to be determined at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. The Hawks’ opponent will be determined Sunday after teams are seeded.
“It’s a week of having fun,” Oakland said. “We talked about how this is an opportunity for us to be together another week with a group of girls who really like being around each other and having fun.”
That was evident Saturday, when the Hawks took a 4-0 halftime lead and coasted to victory against a quality opponent that finished with a 15-6 record. In four postseason games, Prairie has outscored its opponents 33-1 and did not allow a goal until St. Joseph scored on a corner kick at 88:30.
The Hawks outshot St. Joseph 20-9, but Oakland feels that differential does not adequately reflect his team’s domination.
“A lot of their shots came on set plays,” he said. “We did not give up too many shots in the round of play.”
That starts with a defense comprised of the back line of Laney Peterson, Kaja Baron and Andrea Palmen along with defenders Libby Antonneau, Kiran Shimp and Jordanne Orlowski. And then there’s goalkeepers Maggie Dreifuerst, a freshman, and Claire Coffman, a senior who is playing high school soccer for the first time.
That defense has 10 shutouts this season and has helped Prairie outscore its opponents 133-29.
“At the beginning of the season, we actually moved a lot of people around on defense and went back and forth between different lineups,” said Palmen, a junior who lives in Kenosha. “We kind of found that three in the back work really well. As we’ve played games, we’ve gotten more comfortable and our communication has been key in that.
“We know when to call people back and when to push up. That’s how we play together and how we find that next line in the midfield. And then they can go forward and find the next one after that.”
Helping elevate that defense is the presence of Peterson, who transferred from St. Catherine’s after her sophomore year. Peterson had to sit out the mandatory season after transferring, but was still vital to the Hawks as a junior.
“Last year even though she couldn’t play, she was really key on our bench,” Palmen said. “She pumped us up, she came to every practice and putting in that effort, I think, has made our team better now what we’re able to play with her. Because she’s not new to us. She’s always been a part of the team to us.”
For Peterson, she is overjoyed to be a Hawk.
“Personally, I am so thankful to be on this team,” she said. “It’s been such an honor to be a part of the Prairie community. We’re all just sisters and we’re all just in for the ride, taking in each game by each game.”
While the defense was hunkering down once again, McPhee and Patterson were doing what they have done so often this season — scoring goals in droves.
McPhee, a junior, scored all three of her goals in the first half, with Patterson assisting on two of them and Maddie Yde on the other. Patterson, a senior, scored one on an assist from Brooke Foster in the first half and then added two unassisted goals in the second half.
Just as communication has been so vital with Prairie’s defense, Oakland saw that same communication between McPhee and Patterson.
“The two goals leading into halftime, our third and fourth goals, were just brilliant reading of the game by both girls,” Oakland said. “Their defense (referring to St. Joseph) was pretty solid and both times right before we scored those goals you saw that their defenders were caught just for a half second out of position.
“Cate Patterson saw it, Kate McPhee saw it and both times, right on cue, they hit each other on beautiful goals. St. Joseph didn’t give us a lot of opportunities, but those two players were really connecting.”
Said Patterson, “I think we know how each other plays really well. (McPhee) can always tell where I’m about to pass it and what through balls are on. She finds me in the back of the middle a lot, which is great.
“I think we work together a lot, but the whole team works well together.”
St. Joseph coach Gino Alia isn’t about to dispute that.
“The definitely play with good pace, good skill and they really work together nicely,” he said. “They outclassed us, they’re definitely on a roll and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t continue and have success at state.”