MILWAUKEE — The Prairie School and Sturgeon Bay high school boys soccer teams played 87 minutes of shutout soccer Saturday.
Certainly no one watching the game expected it to be the final 87 minutes of the WIAA Division 4 state championship match.
Sophomore Luis Garduno scored at 2:09 of the match for the Hawks, and senior goalkeeper Will Sullivan and the rest of the defense survived a barrage of Clippers shots in the second half to beat Sturgeon Bay 1-0 at Uihlein Soccer Park.
Prairie (17-4-3) won its sixth state title — its second in Division 4, which began in 2013 — in eight state appearances. The Hawks have played in the final every time.
Sturgeon Bay, the 2015 Division 4 champion, finished 18-5-2.
Defense was certainly the story. Sullivan made two saves, the toughest of which came on a rocket from 35 yards in the 77th minute where Sullivan had to stretch his 5-foot-11 frame to tap the ball over the crossbar.
Aside from that shot, Sullivan gobbled up every ball he could get his hands on.
“I saw him wind up and said ‘Well, my team put in the goal, so I had to do my part too,’ ” Sullivan said. “They were playing pretty direct, so it’s easier to defend. It was definitely a lot easier when they’re overplaying balls.”
There was only one time Sullivan was out of position, but junior defender Nick Dybul was right there. A ball was heading toward the goal, but Dybul cleared the ball off the line to preserve the lead and the shutout.
“He saved my butt on that one,” Sullivan said. “All the credit goes to him.”
Dybul said he saw Sullivan challenge a Clippers player and figured he needed to be ready.
“I just saw him stepping out and I had a feeling it might get flicked over,” Dybul said. “So I said let me drop back, better to be safe than sorry, and I was there. A couple more bounces and it would have been in.”
Sullivan couldn’t praise his defenders — Dybul, senior Ryan Anderson and sophomore Caden Holum — enough for their stellar play.
“I had all the confidence in them and I knew they could pull out the zero,” Sullivan said.
Prairie coach Corey Oakland also was effusive about the play of the defense, especially Holum, who has been starting at left back for about a month.
“Nick Dybul and Ryan Anderson have been solid all year,” Oakland said. “Caden went out there and he has been awesome, absolutely unbelievable. He’s played near perfection pretty much every game he’s been in.
“I said before the game could easily be a 1-0 game either way. I know we’re strong offensively and they’re strong, but the defenses are really, really strong. I have a ton of respect for that team, so I knew it was going to be hard for us to break them down. I couldn’t be more proud of how we played.”
Offensively, the goal for Garduno wasn’t the only chance the Hawks had to score, but it turned out to be the best. Senior midfielder Koda Fletcher won a ball about 25 yards from the goal and sent a perfect pass to the left side of Sturgeon Bay’s net. Garduno beat goalkeeper Trent Maas to his left for the goal.
“I envisioned in my head that Luis was making that run,” Fletcher said. “I was looking at the ball because I had just won it, so I knew there was a space there and it was just the classic slot it through and you can knock it in.
“I didn’t think he was going to get there, I thought the goalie was going to get it, but he got there and scored. It was amazing.”
Garduno said it was a perfect feed.
“It was a great assist — I couldn’t have done it without him,” Garduno said. “We wanted it, it was a team effort and we worked hard for it.”
Dybul said the Hawks wanted to dominate possession and the game, and thought the early goal was a good sign. Once the second half started, however, he and his defensive teammates knew they had a lot of hard work ahead of them.
“In the second half, they came out with a new attitude and started pinning us back,” Dybul said. “About 10 minutes into the half, I realized OK, there’s no getting back control of this one. We have to be nails tight and we have to lock it in.”
They did, and Sullivan was the biggest part of that.
“He is so good, he’s so calm,” Oakland said. “He has the ability to make the highlight save, but otherwise, he’s a game manager. He managed the game incredibly well — he was a voice of calm, he handled the ball well and he was a rock back there.”
WIAA State Tournament
At Uihlein Soccer Park, Milwaukee
Saturday's championship results
The Prairie School (17-4-3) 1, Sturgeon Bay (18-5-2) 0.
Prairie 1, Sturgeon Bay 0 -- Prairie goal/assist: Luis Garduno (Koda Fletcher). Prairie shutout/saves: Will Sullivan 2.
Milw. Marquette (20-3-1) 2, Hartland Arrowhead (16-4-3) 1
Whitefish Bay (25-0) 6, Oregon (16-5-4) 1
Mount Horeb (19-4-1) 2, Delavan-Darien (25-2-3) 1