Oregon edges Waunakee to earn fourth straight state trip
OREGON — It took stamina and strategy. It took fortitude and physicality.
In the end on Saturday, though, what it really took was a little luck.
“We’ll take the luck,” Oregon coach Julie Grutzner said with a grin.
In her final year as Oregon’s coach, Grutzner’s Panthers have earned a fourth consecutive trip to the WIAA Division 2 state semifinals.
Oregon earned a 1-0 victory over visiting Waunakee in a rough-and-tumble sectional final.
The stamina, strategy, fortitude and physicality helped the young Badger South Conference co-champion Panthers (11-3-6) keep Badger North runner-up Waunakee (16-4-0) from mounting a single serious scoring threat.
“No goals is always our goal,” junior defender Sydney McKee said. “They really had no good chances.”
And the luck came when a foul call against Waunakee led to a direct kick for Oregon from about 40 yards out, just to the right of the goal.
McKee launched the kick and watched from afar as Panthers sophomores Hannah Rohrer and Brooklynn Kane battled for position with Waunakee senior Jaden Murty and junior goalkeeper Alyssa Kuhn, who was drawn out of the goal by the caroming ball.
“Sydney played the kick just right, and when the defender (Murty) went for the ball, she had to go backward,” Rohrer said. “And I was just there and I chested it in.”
“We worked so hard … (and) it was a set play that did it for us,” said McKee, who spent most of the second half marking Waunakee’s tallest, fastest and strongest player, Maddie Farnsworth.
Strategy played a key role in the second half.
“At the end we changed formations so that (Farnsworth) would be the one bringing up the ball, because we had to get something going,” first-year Waunakee coach Ben Voss said.
“In the second half, both teams had a lot of nerves, a lot of trying to play conservatively. … When that happens, you kind of get into a kick-and-run style.”
“We had Sydney and (senior Kailie Sweeney) on Farmsworth. We made that switch at halftime,” Grutzner said.
Although both teams delivered aggressive bumps and thumps — a couple of which could be heard up in the stands — neither was an offensive juggernaut.
Oregon sophomore goalie Melia Meyer had to make only four saves for her shutout, and Kuhn made just three.
“In the first half, we had three or four corner kicks that were well-served, but (Oregon) did a good job clearing them out,” Voss said.
“Everyone was a little bit fearful,” Grutzner said. “Sometimes you wait for someone to make a mistake, and you try to make sure that someone isn’t you.”
Oregon will find out its state semifinal foe when the WIAA holds its seeding meeting.
No matter the opponent, Grutzner — who announced her retirement during the season — is thrilled to have one more week with her team.
“To go four years in a row, that’s something these seniors can always be proud of,” Grutzner said. “That’s something to be proud of.”
Waunakee 0 0 — 0
Oregon 0 1 — 1
Second half: O — Rohrer (McKee), 84:57.
Saves: W (Kuhn) 3, O (Moyer) 4.