Elkhorn’s boys soccer team could not break up the Brookfield party at the WIAA state soccer tournament.
It had been more than two months since the Elks allowed more than one goal to an opponent in a match, but Brookfield Central found a way to score twice against them in the final 16 minutes of a Division 2 state semifinal Friday.
The second goal came with less than two minutes left in regulation and dealt Elkhorn a heartbreaking 2-1 loss at Uihlein Soccer Park.
Brookfield Central will take on Brookfield East in the D2 state title match Saturday. The Elks saw their 21-match winning streak suddenly end and finished with a 21-2 record.
“Both teams had opportunities in different situations … and we just didn’t take advantage of some opportunities we had,” Elkhorn coach BZ Kayser said. “I thought both teams fought really hard.”
The Elks led 1-0 and were 16 minutes away from advancing to a state title match for the second time in program history, but the Lancers had other ideas.
In the 75th minute, they fed the ball ahead to junior forward Nick Piraino crashing into the 18-yard scoring box. Elkhorn keeper Preston Ward—who kept busy with nine saves—came off his line to deny Piraino, but senior midfielder Marcelo Garay collected the rebound and scored his team-leading 17th goal of the season.
“I think these guys live for the second half,” Lancers head coach Daniel Makal said. “Not to say we saved any gas in the first half, but they understand how good their fitness is. When you get to a cold game and you’re grinding it out, you’ve got to rely on the things that you’re good at, and they know they can run.”
Tied 1-1 entering the final minutes, the match then appeared destined for overtime, especially after Elkhorn’s two most-promising scoring opportunities of the second half went unrewarded with shots just wide of each post.
But the Lancers drew a free kick from about 30 yards out with about two minutes remaining. Senior Matt Richter lofted a ball toward the top center point of the 8-yard box, and senior defender John Bochenczak got his head on it and scored just inside the left post.
“Ultimately, Matty puts in a great ball and, you know, Tom only scores with his head,” Makal said. “Luckily we found his dome and he put it in.”
The Lancers found a way to rally after a tough moment just before halftime when the Elks scored their lone goal and Brookfield Central lost its keeper in the process.
Elkhorn junior Luke Schoeneberg collided with senior keeper Colin Szymborski, who appeared to be bending over to try and pick up the ball. There was no whistle, and Schoeneberg collected the ball and dumped it in the net for a 1-0 lead with just 22 seconds remaining in the half.
“He (Schoeneberg) thinks he got to the ball before (Szymborski) got to the ball, and then … made contact,” Kayser said, adding Szymborski’s head seemed to hit Schoeneberg’s hip. “I just think it was bam-bam.”
Makal said he did not know if he could comment without bringing his emotions into the discussion. Szymborski ultimately left the stadium on a stretcher, and Makal did not have an immediate update on his keeper’s condition.
“I thought it was unlucky, I will say that,” Makal said.
Elkhorn held the lead at halftime despite being outplayed for much of the first 30 minutes.
Ward made four of his saves, including punching one ball up into the air that came at him from close range, in the first 15 minutes as the Elks shook off their nerves.
“They were all over us,” Kayser said. “Then we finally got some confidence.”
Elkhorn senior Alec Birbaum saw a shot go just wide of the net in the 34th minute after the Elks pressured forward on a goal kick.
Along with their two other similar close calls in the final 15 minutes, Central’s replacement keeper, Simon Brown, stopped a low shot off a corner kick in the 57th.
“We had a couple opportunities … a couple crosses,” said Kayser, whose team was outshot 11-4 in terms of shots on goal but had about the same number of good scoring opportunities as the Lancers. “Just a couple set pieces, you know, and that’s just soccer.”
Kayser said the season-ending loss should take nothing away from a team that avenged last year’s shootout loss to Oregon in a sectional final and earned the program’s third trip to the state tournament.
“That’s a great run,” Kayser said. “We lost nine starters last year. If you said this group here is back at state this year and ran off 21 (wins) in a row, I don’t think anybody would’ve believed that.
“It’s tough. But it’s a bear to get here … and we fought hard.”
BROOKFIELD CENTRAL 2, ELKHORN 1
Brookfield Central 0 2—2
Elkhorn 1 1—1
E—Luke Schoeneberg, 44:38.
BC—Marcelo Garay, 74:32. BC—John Bochenczak (Matt Richter), 88:03.
Saves—Preston Ward (E) 9, Colin Szymborski (BC) 2, Simon Brown (BC) 1.