With Wauwatosa West's season on the line, Will Jushka sensed an opportunity and made the most of it.
The senior scored on a leaping header in the 86th minute and again in the final minute to lead the fifth-seeded Trojans to a 2-0 win over fourth-seeded Brookfield East on Oct. 22 in a WIAA Division 2 boys soccer regional final.
"We didn't find our composure quick enough," Wauwatosa West coach Ryan Bailey said. "We got a goal because Will made a special play, but that was nowhere near how we wanted to play. The way that we trained was to get the ball, play the ball across, play the ball through to feet. Never was it just kicking the ball. The last time we played them, we got a goal early, and we kind of held on.
"This time we thought we'd be a little more polished, but we never settled down. Luckily, Will being the special player he is, he took a chance and found the net once and iced it on the second one."
Brookfield East senior defender Aaron Benitez was given a red card in the 44th minute after he became tangled with Trojan senior midfielder Jorge Davila. It appeared to the referee that Benitez stomped on Davila, but the Spartans' side argued Benitez was being held and pulled down.
Nonetheless, the red card meant Brookfield East was down a man. Wauwatosa West, which entered the tournament with more cards than any team in the state, received two yellow cards but mostly held its composure.
"We are usually known for talking, causing a commotion and having bad fouls, but I felt like we held our ground and kept our mind," Jushka said. "In the end, we found the goal."
It took nearly the entire second half for Wauwatosa West to take advantage, but the Trojans struck in the 86th minute when Jushka elevated over a defender to head in a ball from junior defender Andrew Blomfeldt.
"A couple seconds earlier, I had won a head ball, and I was feeling pretty good about that one," Jushka said. "I knew there wasn't a lot of time left, and something needed to be done. The goalie was coming out, and it went over him."
The goal took the wind out of Brookfield East, as the Spartans were hoping to get through regulation and the two 10-minute overtime periods at 0-0 and take the game to penalty kicks.
"We had to put people in wrong positions and become defensive-minded instead of attacking," Brookfield East coach Herbie Dundun said. "It was the right thing for us to do tactically. It was just unfortunate. It was a bad bounce. It took the air out of the balloon.
"I'm proud of the effort the guys gave. They gave everything."
Jushka scored from point-blank range in the 90th minute off a perfect pass from junior midfielder Phil Fobair.
"We kept stressing, find the ball, find feet and get numbers forward," Bailey said. "In the 60th minute, we finally settled down and realized it. Cole (Seabrook) and Tyler (Hipke), my two center backs, started picking the ball and carrying it into space where they were on their back foot and more desperate. Then we kept getting numbers forward. At one point, I had seven guys that have all played forward in the front seven just to go and attack to get one."
Brookfield East, ranked No. 4 in the latest Division 2 state rankings, finished the season at 10-7-3.
Wauwatosa West (12-6-3) last won a regional title in 2007 when it advanced all the way to the state semifinals.
The Trojans will play at top-seeded Waukesha West (12-5-2) in a sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27. If Wauwatosa West can get past the Wolverines, the Trojans would play against the winner of second-seeded Pewaukee and third-seeded New Berlin Eisenhower in a sectional final at Waukesha North High School at 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 29.
"It has been up and down," Bailey said. "We've had a lot of adversity. We've had red cards, we've had tough losses, we've had ties. We challenged them this past week by saying some of you are playing for your careers. They stepped up and finished it."
Although the final score was just 2-0, Wauwatosa West controlled its regional semifinal win over 12th-seeded Greenfield from start to finish on Oct. 20.
Sophomore midfielder Parker Summers gave the Trojans a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 13th minute. Senior midfielder Elmir Karabegovic scored in the 47th minute to make it 2-0.