It was the first 15 minutes that surprised Kayla Miller on Thursday night.
It was the next 75 that will stick with the Milton girls head soccer coach the most.
Her Red Hawks allowed two goals in the opening 13 minutes, a quick deficit simply too much to overcome, even for a team with 10 seniors. Second-seeded Oregon used the hot start to down third-seeded Milton 3-0 in a WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal.
The Red Hawks finished with a 13-5-0 record, but not before playing an inspired and prideful final 75 minutes.
“We talked at halftime about it being a respect and a pride thing, and how it’s very hard to gain respect and very easy to lose it,” Miller said. “They had 45 minutes to make sure the respect they earned the last four years was kept and they went out with it.
“I think you saw that shift. It’s a big deal when the opposing coach, the first thing she says to you is, ‘You guys were the better team for most of that game.’”
Unfortunately for the Red Hawks, the first 15 minutes were costly.
The Panthers began putting the pressure on from the opening kick and needed just a little more than seven minutes to break through. Senior Emma Krause made a run to the back, right post and found herself on the end of a serve in by senior Kailie Sweeney.
“I kind of just stuck my leg out and got the touch. Then it was just a matter of going far corner or to the right. I saw the opening (near side) and thought she’d guess the other way, so I took it,” Krause said. “Every game we always say to set the tone in the first 10 minutes, because it really does play up the rest of the game.”
A little more than five minutes later, Oregon doubled its lead.
Sophomore Avery Fanning battled a defender heading toward the scoring box. Milton keeper Dani Heitsman charged off her line and dove in an attempt to snatch the ball, but it squirted free and Fanning finished it off at 12:35.
“I didn’t think we would come out that way,” Miller said. “I don’t know if it was a flat thing or a timid thing. I’m not sure, it just wasn’t us.
“If you take away the first 12-15 minutes, it’s a different game completely. But in the playoffs, you can’t afford to have that 12-minute start.”
Milton found its footing over the final 30 minutes of the first half, and the shooting statistics were essentially even by halftime.
Yet it was Oregon that added to its lead with less than seven minutes left in the half. The Panthers took advantage of a penalty kick, with junior Katie Eisele netting the final goal of the match.
Oregon, which appeared content with its 3-0 lead in the second half, will host top-seeded Waunakee in a D2 sectional final Saturday. If the Panthers win, it will mark their fourth consecutive state berth and the program’s fourth overall in the final season under coach Julie Grutzner.
Milton’s seniors had hoped to give the program its first-ever state berth. The varsity team has a 40-29-3 record over the past four seasons, including 34-18-1 in the past three. And the Red Hawks advanced to sectionals all four years.
“We might not have finished on the scoreboard how we wanted to, but we finished how we wanted in terms of the heart and passion that was shown,” Miller said. “I did nothing but gain more respect for this group.
“The senior class was a special group. I don’t think there will be another one like them.”
OREGON 3, MILTON 0
Milton 0 0—0
Oregon 3 0—3
O—Emma Krause (Kailie Sweeney), 7:23. O—Avary Fanning, 12:35. O—Katie Eisele (PK), 38:34.
Saves—Dani Heitsman (M) 3, Melia Moyer (O) 4. Shots—Milton 11, Oregon 10. Fouls—Milton 11, Oregon 7. Corner kicks—Milton 10, Oregon 2. Offsides—Milton 0, Oregon 3.