Small lapses in concentration or technique are often magnified once the postseason arrives.
They can add up quickly, too.
Such was the predicament for Janesville Craig High’s boys soccer team, which saw its season end Tuesday evening in the shadow of the state capitol against Big Eight Conference opponent Madison East.
Samuka Toure, the Cougars’ chief antagonist, had three goals and an assist as the Purgolders won a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal 4-2 at Breese Stevens Field.
Sixth-seeded Madison East (11-4-3) will face third-seeded Madison West on Saturday in a regional final.
Craig, seeded 11th in the 16-team Sun Prairie Sectional, finished its campaign with seven wins and 12 losses.
Tuesday’s loss came just days after the Purgolders bested the Cougars 3-1 on Thursday to close the regular season.
“We had some good opportunities to score,” Craig coach Garrett McCabe said. “It just goes to show when you get into the playoffs every tiny detail matters.
“They were the same team we expected and I think we prepared well for them, but it just didn’t come together today.”
Craig started slowly by conceding Toure’s first goal in the eighth minute.
“Wake up!” McCabe shouted from the sideline a few minutes later after the Cougars gave up a pair of point-blank shot attempts off a Madison East corner before managing to clear the ball away.
Alan Pacheco gave the visitors a lift in the 27th minute, when his bold effort from 25 yards slipped through the hands of keeper Richard Hernandez.
Soon after, a counterattack found a sprinting Gabe Rubine, whose shot was deflected wide by a charging Hernandez.
But East reestablished its lead just before halftime as Toure snuck a shot inside the right post at 44:18.
“Defensively, we weren’t closing quick enough,” McCabe said. “We talked about suffocating the ball, closing numbers on the ball because they like to dribble up front.”
Craig keeper Ty Bienema, who made eight saves, got his fingertips to a Davis Nelson shot but couldn’t tip it away in the 53rd minute, giving East a 2-1 lead.
“The little mistakes end up costing you,” McCabe said. “This game, it’s all about momentum. One goal is all it takes to spur a comeback.”
The Cougars began to throw numbers forward late in the second half and were rewarded. Senior Ivan Pacheco drifted a free kick in front of the net, where it was tipped by a defender and then Hernandez. Andrew Torres, lurking at the far post, tapped the ball into the net, cutting East’s lead to one with seven minutes left.
But Toure put the game out of reach with his third goal—18 seconds after East had a goal disallowed for offsides—at 87:29.
“A hat trick in a playoff game is a pretty big deal,” East assistant coach Charlie Strader said. “He worked hard for his entire shift. He hasn’t been our leading scorer this year, but he really came up big tonight.”
East outshot Craig 24-11 and came up with goals when needed to set up a second meeting with Madison West. The Purgolders defeated the Regents 1-0 on Sept. 13.
McCabe will lose 10 players to graduation but should bring back a solid core in 2019.
“We’ve got really talented kids,” the fifth-year head coach said. “It’s just about getting them to really understand themselves and understand what they’re capable of doing in the positions we put them in.”
MADISON EAST 4, JANESVILLE CRAIG 2
Craig 1 1—2
East 2 2—4
ME—Samuka Toure (Josh Cervantes), 7:55. JC—Alan Pacheco, 26:10. ME—Toure, 44:18.
ME—Davis Nelson (Toure), 53:00. JC—Andrew Torres (Ivan Pacheco), 8:02. ME—Toure (Cervantes), 87:29.
Saves—Ty Bienama (JC) 8, Richard Hernandez (E) 2. Shots—JC 11, ME 24. Shots on goal—JC 4, ME 12. Corners—JC 4, ME 5. Offsides—JC 0, ME 4. Fouls—JC 10, ME 9.