A slip of the tongue from Kaitlyn Shanks said it all Tuesday night.
“It’s hard losing on Senior Night,” the Janesville Craig High girls soccer player said.
Shanks was reminded that the Cougars did not, in fact, lose.
But that visiting Madison West was able to forge a 1-1 Big Eight Conference tie by scoring with less than seven minutes remaining felt like a punch in the gut for Craig’s players.
“It just feels like a loss now,” Shanks said. “We have never beat them and were all hyped to do it tonight, and we couldn’t pull through.”
Perhaps after the Cougars have more time to reflect, they won’t feel so bad.
They ran their unbeaten streak to seven matches in improving to 10-2-2 overall and 5-1-2 in the Big Eight.
And they guaranteed themselves, at worst, a tie for fourth place in the final league standings.
“We’re doing well, but we definitely still have stuff to improve on,” Craig senior Blaize Butler said.
“We’re doing our best, and that’s all you can do.”
The Cougars shook off a recent trend and played one of their better first halves of the season. They outshot West 6-2 overall and 2-1 on goal and had the best offensive chance of a scoreless 45 minutes. But junior Greta Hanthorn’s rip off a pass from Hallie King was stopped by West keeper Lissy Kettleson in the 17th minute.
King had a chance of her own in the 61st but couldn’t solve Kettleson after a give-and-go with fellow sophomore Savanna Dare.
Dare linked up with Hanthorn as the Cougars finally got on the scoreboard in the 75th minute. Hanthorn fed a slick pass up the right third of the field, and Dare made a move to get around Kettleson and bury a shot in a wide-open net.
“That ball that Greta won, running all the way back across the midfield, then turning and coming back to get it to Savanna, that was really good work,” Craig coach Bill McCabe said.
Madison West immediately responded after the goal and had Craig on its heels for much of the next nine minutes.
The Regents got the equalizer when one of their players fell down just on the edge of the scoring box, with the ball squirting free to Abby Goldman-Nagel in the top right corner. She feathered a shot over the outstretched arms of Craig keeper Maia Rowekamp and just under the middle of the crossbar to make it 1-1 at 83:04.
“It was a good shot, right over the keeper’s head,” McCabe said. “But we were tired. We tried to keep cycling players in. Then it breaks down for five seconds, and that’s all it takes.”
The Cougars were frustrated about the late goal and result, but the Big Eight remains wide open after Verona beat Sun Prairie 2-1 on Tuesday.
No. 1-ranked Middleton sits at 6-0-1, while Sun Prairie is now 5-1-1. Those two teams meet in the season finale next Tuesday. Sun Prairie also faces Madison La Follette, and Middleton takes on East. Beyond that, Craig and Verona are each 5-1-2 and play in Verona on Tuesday. And West closes with Janesville Parker and Beloit.
CRAIG 1, WEST 1
Madison West 0 1—1
Janesville Craig 0 1—1
JC—Savanna Dare (Greta Hanthorn), 74:01. MW—Abby Goldman-Nagel, 83:04.
Saves—Lissy Kettleson (MW) 4, Abbey Schrader (JC) 1, Maia Rowekamp (JC) 0. Shots—West 8, Craig 13. Fouls—West 10, Craig 11. Corner kicks—West 6, Craig 3. Offsides—Craig 1.