WIND POINT — Corey Oakland politely demurred at the suggestion that there has been a resurgence in Prairie School girls soccer this season.
His Hawks had just defeated Somers Shoreland Lutheran 7-0 in a WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinal Thursday night at Prairie. Through three postseason games, the top-ranked Division 4 team in the state has outscored its opponents 27-0.
What’s more, the Hawks are 15-3-2 one year after going 8-10-1 without a number of players who are on the team this season. And their latest lopsided victory came against a team the Hawks tied 1-1 last season.
But when it comes to talk of a resurgence, Oakland redirected that narrative.
“I would say there’s not much of a resurgence,” he said. “We’ve been at or near the top of this division for many years. Last year was a tough year. We had injuries, it was not an ideal year from the start. But I will also say that last year was one of the most fun teams I’ve ever been part of. It was an absolutely great group of girls.”
Fair enough. But this year’s group of girls have sure been something to see.
During a cold, raw night when fog thickened throughout the match, the Hawks got off to a slow start with unassisted goals by Brooke Foster and Cate Patterson in the first half.
And then the floodgates opened in the second half, with another goal by Patterson, one by Maddy Yde, two by Kate McPhee and one by Emma Fleming.
The Hawks finished with 34 shots to just one for Shoreland Lutheran (12-9-1).
“They’re good,” Shoreland Lutheran coach Matt Grow volunteered before he was even asked about Prairie.
And then he elaborated.
“Cate Patterson is one of the finest soccer players that this conference has seen in a long time and we’ve had some really good ones in the Metro Classic,” he said. “With Maddy Yde and Kate McPhee, there’s just brilliant passing.
“Coach Oakland does a fantastic job with these girls, getting them ready to go.”
Next up for the Hawks is Kenosha St. Joseph in a 1 p.m. sectional championship Saturday at Prairie. St. Joseph, which Prairie defeated 8-1 May 20, advanced with a 2-1 victory over Brookfield Academy Thursday night.
Prairie will obviously be the favorite against St. Joseph based on that regular-season score. And if the Hawks continue playing at this level, it’s difficult to envision anyone getting in their way.
“They’re the favorites to win it all,” Grow said. “I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s going to be a team that stands in their way this year.”
What a turnaround it has been.
Last year at this time, Patterson and Yde were playing for a club team. Defender Laney Peterson was sitting out a year after transferring from St. Catherine’s. Foster was concentrating on basketball and Claire Coffman, a goalkeeper, was focusing on hockey.
They are now teammates on one of the best teams in the state.
“I think of all of us were friends outside of soccer,” Foster said. “So we were all just talking. It’s our senior year and we got a bunch of seniors to go out. Why not? We wanted to make a run. We’re all athletes, right? Why not soccer? We can do it together.”
The talent run continued to flow. Jill Decker has started as a freshman. Eric Kutsch, a sophomore transfer from St. Catherine’s who is out with a leg injury, also has made a big impact.
Add to this the established core of McPhee, Kaja Baran, Emma Fleming, Libby Antonneau and Maggie Dreifuerst and all the pieces are in place.
“We have a really good team this year and if we really put our mind to it, we’re capable of anything,” McPhee said.
And then there’s Patterson, who started as a freshman on Prairie’s 2016 state championship team. Does she see a common denominator between that team and these Hawks?
“We all really enjoy being around each other and I think that’s huge,” she said. “You don’t just randomly get on-the-field chemistry. You have to have it off the field, too and we do.
“That’s definitely something I remember from my freshman year. We all just wanted to hang out whenever we could, we all got to games really early just so we could talk and we stayed late at practice.”
Foster will go back to playing basketball when she enrolls at Carroll College this fall. But she sure is glad she took this little detour in her athletic career.
And maybe she will be a part of a state championship team when it’s all said and done.
“I am so happy I came out for the team this year,” she said. “Every day at practice, we have the most fun ever. Some people dread practice. But this team makes it something to look forward to.”