A highlight-reel goal helped propel Janesville Craig’s girls soccer team to a sectional final.
A highlight-reel goal in that match kept them from returning to the state tournament for the first time in nearly two decades.
Kettle Moraine senior Blair Cruikshank’s hard shot off the post with just less than four minutes left in the second overtime sent the Lasers past the Cougars and into the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in Milwaukee later this week.
“She hit a good shot, and the ball was spinning. We thought the ball might go past the far post, but it just caught the post and went in,” Craig head coach Bill McCabe said. “There wasn’t much we could do. Our defenders defended to the death today, and it just is what it is.”
Kettle Moraine will carry a 9-2-5 record to the state tournament, which starts Thursday.
Craig, which allowed 11 goals all season, including one in the playoffs, finished 13-3-4.
“We fought all the way to the end; how much prouder could you be of a group?” McCabe said. “Even in the second overtime, I thought they dug deep and found another gear.”
In 90 minutes of regulation play, both teams struggled to find prime scoring opportunities.
In the 66th minute, the Lasers had the ball deep in the scoring box when Craig defender Kerington Sauser stepped in and slammed the door shut.
In the 79th, the Cougars made a deep run but couldn’t get enough of a leg on a shot to find the frame.
The Cougars also had a free kick from about 25 yards out in the final minute of regulation but couldn’t put it on frame.
In overtime, Craig midfielder Brooke Parkhurst stepped in and closed the door on another Lasers chance, and it appeared the match might be headed to penalty kicks.
“We had the PK takers all lined up and ready to go but thought maybe we could still sneak one (goal) in,” McCabe said.
Instead, a rather innocuous-looking ball forward up the right side turned into a devastating goal for Kettle Moraine.
Cruikshank got her foot on the ball forward, took a stride or two toward the right side of the penalty box and unleashed her hard shot to the far post. The spinning ball deflected in at 106:02.
The Cougars advanced to the sectional final Wednesday when senior Kaitlyn Shanks dove and put her head on the end of a long free kick to beat top-seeded Middleton.
The Cougars, who graduate three seniors, got one step closer to state than a year ago, when they lost on penalty kicks in a sectional semifinal.
“Thrilled with this group,” McCabe said. “We gave up 10 goals all year. We shut out Verona, we shut out East, we shut out Middleton. Those are great accomplishments for a young team.”
KETTLE MORAINE 1, CRAIG 0 (OT)
Janesville Craig 0 0 0 0—0
Kettle Moraine 0 0 0 1—1
KM—Blair Cruikshank, 106:02.
Saves—Maia Rowekamp (C) 6, Kettle Moraine 3. Shots—Craig 15, Kettle Moraine 15. Fouls—Craig 14, Kettle Moraine 14. Corner kicks—Craig 5, Kettle Moraine 1. Offsides—Craig 1, Kettle Moraine 3.