BELLEVILLE — John Ziperski wasn’t expecting to see his Belleville/New Glarus girls soccer team ahead by two goals at halftime in Thursday night’s WIAA sectional semifinal against Mount Horeb.
And then the Raiders scored again just after the break in a matchup between two of the state’s top-ranked Division 3 sides.
“Being up 2-0 was a surprise to me; 3-0 was like ‘Wow, where are we going?’ ” Ziperski said. “But that was short-lived.”
Indeed it was. That three-goal cushion became two in a matter of seconds, the Vikings added another goal and poured on the pressure, but the Raiders clung to their slim advantage and pulled out a 3-2 victory in an end-to-end match.
“We were a little nervous, because they’re a good team and we know that they can attack. But at the same time, we know how good we are and we had confidence in ourselves,” Raiders senior center back Aimee Sies said. “We were worried, but it’s OK, we figured it out.”
As a result, Belleville/New Glarus (17-0-1), seeded second in the sectional, advanced to play top-seeded Madison Edgewood in Saturday’s sectional final in Mount Horeb with a berth in next week’s state tournament in Milwaukee on the line.
The Crusaders, ranked third in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association Division 3 state poll, beat McFarland 1-0 earlier Thursday and many of their players and coaches were among those who filled the bleachers to watch this five-goal thriller.
They saw senior midfielder Kalin O’Rourke put the home team in front just 7 minutes in, zipping past two defenders on the left side and slotting a shot past Vikings senior goalkeeper Brynn Hansen into the far-post side netting for her 25th goal of the year. Hansen was deputizing for junior Grace Droessler, sidelined after suffering a knee injury in Saturday’s regional final victory over West Salem.
“She’s just fun to watch,” Ziperski said of O’Rourke. “She’s tricky, she kind of lulls you to sleep, you think she’s going full-speed and then she kicks a gear in.”
Fifth-ranked Mount Horeb (12-4-1) grew into the game and created some chances, with senior forward Sydney King central in the attack, but the Vikings couldn’t get anything past Raiders junior keeper Rachael Heittola in the opening 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, O’Rourke doubled the lead for eighth-ranked Belleville/New Glarus in the 40th, ripping a shot from the top of the box to the left post. Hansen dove and got her hands on the ball, but couldn’t keep it out and it was 2-0 at the interval.
And when junior Sydney Gentilli poked in a shot from close range on the left doorstep just 6 minutes into the second half, it would have been easy to assume that was just about it — at that point, the Raiders had allowed just seven goals all season and only one team had managed to score more than one goal against them.
But that team was Mount Horeb, which did so in a 2-2 draw on April 28, and the Vikings pulled one goal back less than a minute later. Sophomore Olivia Yanna worked herself free on the right flank and played in a cross that found Maggie Conway unmarked in front of Heittola.
“There was definitely a swing of momentum,” said Ziperski, whose team fell 1-0 to Mount Horeb in the sectional semifinal last year on the same field last year.
Nine minutes later, the Vikings earned a free kick about 15 yards out wide on the left side. Junior Makyla Severson stepped up and crushed a shot to the near post that Heittola couldn’t keep out and suddenly it was a one-goal game.
Mount Horeb switched to three in the back, sent players forward and created more chances — and Belleville/New Glarus had some prime opportunities, too — but there were no goals in the final half hour and the Raiders held on for their 12th straight win.
“At the end of the day, they were able to take their chances better than we were,” Vikings coach Mark Newman said, “and that’s why they’ll be playing on Saturday.”
Mount Horeb 0 2 — 2
Belleville/New Glarus 2 1 — 3
First half — BNG: O’Rourke, 7th minute; O’Rourke, 40th.
Second half — BNG: S. Gentilli (Rossing), 51st. MH: Conway (Yanna), 52nd; Severson, 61st.
Shots — MH 14, BNG 12.
Saves — MH (Hansen) 4; BNG (Heittola) 5.