It may have just been the conference opener, but it is never too early for statement victories.
Wauwatosa West’s girls soccer team proved it will not be handing over its Woodland Conference championship easily, as the Trojans converted on scoring opportunities to collect a 4-0 victory over Pewaukee in a battle of state-ranked teams on April 4 at Whitman Middle School.
The top two finishers in the Woodland in each of the past three seasons entered this year as the favorites in the conference yet again along with potential dark horse contenders in New Berlin West and New Berlin Eisenhower. Both teams came in ranked in the Division 2 state coaches poll, with Pewaukee at No. 4 and Tosa West at No. 10.
"Everyone was saying Pewaukee was projected to win (the conference)," Tosa West senior midfielder Hannah Fuerstenau said. "But we have the championship and we are trying to keep it. They were coming in to try to take it, so this was a great way to start off the conference season."
While there are 11 conference games left to play for each team, Tosa West certainly has a leg up in the title race with a win in hand over Pewaukee. The Trojans, unbeaten in their last 14 Woodland matches dating back to a 3-0 loss to the Pirates in 2015, will face Shorewood on April 6 and the New Berlin schools in early May.
"We talked a lot about how this was not going to be a finished product," Tosa West coach Ryan Bailey said. "We just had to be a little bit further along than Pewaukee. We also talked about the hustle plays and the grinding goals. That's what we got."
Pewaukee had multiple chances in the early portion of the first half, including receiving an indirect penalty kick from inside 6 yards after a trap by Tosa West inside the goal box in the 16th minute. Pirates senior forward MacKenzie Schill had her shot deflected away by a Trojans wall, and the rebound attempt sailed high. It was the first of two indirect kicks from inside the 6-yard mark that Pewaukee failed to even get a shot on goal off.
The Pirates had another good look at the goal in the 26th minute, but Schill missed high over the goal.
In the 28th minute, Tosa West senior midfielder Erin Schaut lofted a long free kick into the goal box. Junior midfielder Emily O’Connell was there to head the ball past Pirates freshman goalkeeper Lauren Schill.
Tosa West increased its lead to 2-0 in the 44th minute when Isabella Jacobson carried the ball to the edge of the penalty area before playing a perfect pass to O’Connell, who finished for her second goal.
"We work on being the first one to attack the ball every day," Bailey said. "We know those are going to pay off. You can't always play nice. When two teams are evenly matched, a goal really changes things. They were coming at us in the middle 15 and the first goal changed that. The second one before the half really put the first nail into them."
Pewaukee created multiple opportunities to cut the deficit in half just out of halftime, but the Pirates still could not capitalize.
Tosa West senior goalkeeper Haley Orlowski stopped Schill on two different breakaways and a free kick from the edge of the penalty area by sophomore midfielder Lexi Blaser soared high and wide right.
"You make those (first-half opportunities), and it is a totally different game," Pewaukee coach Sean Sullivan said. "But we didn't. We thought we could make the changes at halftime and we had some early opportunities (in the second half).
"We knew Tosa West was going to play a good game. I love the way they play. They are very physical and fast. We looked like we were walking around with concrete shoes on."
The Trojans capitalized on their first chance the second half when Hannah Fuerstenau bent in a shot to the top left corner of the goal off a free kick from just outside the penalty area in the 55th minute. Fuerstenau scored again on a rebound of a shot by Schaut off a corner kick in the 55th minute to make it 4-0.
Orlowski made seven saves to earn her second clean sheet in as many games to start the season. She entered the season in a fight for playing time with returning second-team All-Woodland selection Marley Eckblad but has become the team's top keeper after Eckblad had to have her gallbladder removed.
"Haley was great," Bailey said. "She's really good. One on one, she's really good with her feet. She's finally back 100 percent healthy. She tore her ACL as a sophomore. Last year was a bit of a transition, but this year she's stepping up. They were really even before Marley went out. But Haley has taken it and has had clean sheets against Germantown and Pewaukee."
For Pewaukee, it was an early-season wake-up call. While there's plenty of season left in front of the talented Pirates, they no longer are in control of the Woodland Conference race and will need Tosa West to slip up at least once.
"I"m frustrated and very disappointed in our effort," Sullivan said. "I told the girls after the game that I can understand making soccer mistakes, bad traps, bad passes and not hitting your shots, but the effort was not there."
Trojans down Shorewood
Tosa West followed up its big victory over Pewaukee with a 4-2 win over Shorewood on April 6.
Schaut scored two early goals to put the Trojans in front, finding the back of the net from 40 yards out in the third minute and finished on a one-on-one situation with the keeper in the 18th minute off an assist from Jacobson. O'Connell scored in the 40th minute to give Tosa West a 3-0 halftime lead.
Shorewood cut into the deficit with a goal just one minute into the second half and scored again in the 50th minute to pull within 3-2. But Schaut completed her hat trick off an assist from O'Connell to give the Trojans breathing room in the 76th minute.
"After an emotional contest such as Pewaukee, it is not always easy to refocus and come out strong again," Bailey said. "Although we went up 3-0 at half, we were not sharp. Fatigue was setting in, and we let Shorewood jump us to start the second half. We gave two back in the first five minutes and made things tough on ourselves.
"Our leadership and experience got us through this aspect of the match and Erin finished off the scoring off of a ball from Emily that once again doubled our advantage."
Orlowski made seven saves against the Greyhounds.
"How we started conference last week will influence our entire season," Bailey said. "This group stepped up to all challenges and came out successful."