New Berlin — New Berlin Eisenhower knew Katie Grall and Dani Rhodes of Waukesha West were fast. It did not take long for the Wolverines to flex their Ferrari-like speed scoring three times in the first 12 minutes as they ended the Lions season 5-1 Saturday, June 14, in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final.
The victory ensured West's unprecedented eighth-straight year advancing to the state tournament. This year, however, will be the first for West as a Division 2 team. The Wolverines will play Cedarburg at noon at Uihlein Soccer Park on Friday, June 20.
"It was West's graduation today, and we had to give the seniors a gift by getting them back to the state tournament," said West coach David Zindler. "Then, we asked our seniors to give our younger girls a present and get them to state for the first time."
The seniors and Rhodes certainly delivered the gift. The West (21-4) offense was razor sharp early on and showed their experience in big games quickly. Eisenhower, which starts three freshmen on defense, could not contain an aggressive Rhodes as she slipped by the defense to give West the early lead just six minutes in. The speedy sophomore finished with three goals on the day.
"She is a quick player," said Eisenhower coach Erin Frantz about Rhodes. "She fakes one way and goes one way, and that's how she turns them every time. Even when you tell them that, it takes a little bit."
Grall, a four-year starter and Loyola University recruit, displayed her vast array of talents as she added a quick insurance goal just over three minutes later. Eisenhower keeper, Taylor Rockard, took on a charging Grall but could not get enough of the ball to keep it in front of her.
"We knew Eisenhower was a great team, and we had to get on them right away," said Grall, who finished with two goals and an assist. "Once we got those early goals, it allowed us to carry the momentum, and our defense, as usual, played a great game in the back."
West's experience began to show on defense as senior defensive back Carly Hoffman and fellow senior Sophia Donofrio allowed just their third goal scored in their four playoff games this season in the 55th minute as Eisenhower senior forward Holly Plazak snuck one in the back of the net.
"I think we had our opportunities offensively," Frantz said. "We just did not put them away. Once they score a goal, they put all their girls back on defense and pack it in."
Zindler added, "They have played a lot of minutes together back there. We are very organized. All the movement is choreographed based on the ball; they understand the system, and they communicate well."
Eisenhower finished second in the Woodland conference and cruised to the sectional final outscoring their opponents 20-0 before running into West.
"We didn't have a standout player who did this or that," Frantz said. "When they played together is when they made things happen and how we were able to beat some good teams."
Senior captain Kristin Hesselbach was instrumental in the success of the Lions this season and helped Eisenhower continue to attack for all 80 minutes.
"It's going to be a tough loss," Frantz said about Hesselbach." She's been on the team since her freshman year and has played every position on the field.
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