The new kid helped get The Prairie School girls soccer team back to the WIAA State Tournament Saturday.
Sophomore midfielder Katie Koker scored two first-half goals, including a rocket from 40 yards, and the Hawks beat Kettle Moraine Lutheran 4-0 in a WIAA Division 4 sectional final at Prairie.
The Hawks (20-4) will play Oostburg (20-1-2), which beat Manitowoc Roncalli 8-0 in a sectional final, in a Division 4 state semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
Koker, in her first year at Prairie after transferring from Case, has meshed well with her teammates and played a key role for the Hawks.
“She’s really settled into a fantastic role,” Prairie coach Corey Oakland said. “She’s such an exceptional player, but she’s gone from being offense to more defensive-minded in her positioning on the field wherever she plays. In a funny way, that’s impacted our offense even more.”
Early on Saturday, it was on offense. In the 17th minute, Koker was left alone between the top of the box and the midline and drilled a right-footed shot from 40 yards away. Chargers goalkeeper Kelsey Knuth got both hands on the sinking shot, but the ball went through her hands into the net.
“Katie hit that so well — that was awesome,” senior defender Jordynn Gottwald said. “She takes a lot of shots from the outside and she hit it perfect.
“We’re happy to have her here — she’s a great asset.”
In the 29th minute, Lutheran (17-7-2) was called for a handball in the box. Koker buried the ensuing penalty shot for a 2-0 Hawks lead.
The Hawks controlled play from the start, playing in the Chargers’ end of the field for the majority of the first half.
Oakland wanted to keep the pressure on because he was concerned about Lutheran’s momentum. The Chargers beat Brookfield Academy 4-1 in the sectional semifinal Thursday and Brookfield Academy gave the Hawks one of their four losses during the regular season.
“It was an impressive win for them (Thursday), so we had to make sure we played well, especially in the first half and I thought we did. We pretty much kept the ball in the attacking third the entire time.”
The Chargers came out more aggressively in the second half and mounted an attack in the 51st minute. Senior forward Taylor Brazell dribbled down the left side, angled toward the goal and hit a hard shot from 10 yards, but it was right at Prairie sophomore goalkeeper Quinn Shannon. It was her only save of the match.
Prairie’s defense, led by Gottwald, was not at full strength, but played solid. Senior Cali Pfleger was injured and junior defender Olivia Carpenter was ill and played limited minutes. Koker helped out on defense.
“We just talked a lot and that’s the great thing about our team — positive talk all the time,” Gottwald said. “So I feel like we handled it really well.”
Lutheran got in Prairie’s end of the field several more times in the second half, but did not have a hard shot on goal.
“We had a couple chances, the only couple we had all game, and unfortunately we hit it right at their goalie,” Chargers coach Brian Hoerchner said. “We had one great breakaway and it could have been a difference maker, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
The Hawks scored their third goal of the game in the 84th minute. Junior forward Rachel Gentile dribbled in from the right side of the box and took a shot that Knuth blocked, and the players ran into each other. There was no whistle and Gentile was able to get up and put the ball in the goal.
Prairie’s final goal came with 15 seconds left. Junior forward Hannah Compernolle put in a rebound of freshman midfielder Cate Patterson’s hard shot that went off the hands of Knuth.
Oakland won’t dwell on the victory, Prairie’s sixth sectional title.
“We’ve been there quite a few times,” he said. “We can enjoy this for 24 hours, then we have to focus on the next job.”
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!