"Maybe we just weren't ready for the moment."
That was the assessment of Germantown girls soccer coach Paul Sikinger after top-ranked in state Cedarburg got a goal in the 78th minute and denied the Warhawks their first-ever WIAA state tournament berth with a 1-0 sectional final decision Saturday night in Whitefish Bay.
"Our girls knew what was at stake, but maybe they (the Bulldogs) wanted it a little more. That group over there has been together for four years and they know exactly what each other will do. That's something you just can't teach."
"...You just need one great opportunity to go to state and they got it."
The Warhawks, ranked fourth in the state heading into the WIAA Tournament series, finished at 13-3-2 They were in their second sectional final in school history having also lost in 2008.
With the victory, the Bulldogs (15-3-1) end two years of frustration where they have lost in the sectional final. They have not lost to a Wisconsin-based team this season and will enter the WIAA State Tournament at Uihlein Field in Milwaukee on Thursday as a prohibitive favorite.
"We kept pressing," said Bulldog coach Trent Berg, "and we were able to keep it on their end (for most of the game). But they defend well, we just were finally able to get one in at the end."
"They're (the Warhawks) are a great team, and it was a great battle, it was just sad that it was in a sectional final and not at state."
Indeed, as this was indeed the "sectional of death", as it featured four of the top eight ranked teams in the state, including third-ranked Menomone Falls, which the Warhawks beat in the sectional semifinal, 1-0, on Thursday.
Cedarburg had the better of play for most of the game, but the swift-moving Warhawk defense prevented many really dangerous chances. Still, keeper Lauren Meyer had to make two hard saves in the first half to keep the game scoreless.
Germantown changed its tactics at the start of the second half and became more aggressive, actually pushing into the Bulldog end against a physically taller and stronger squad.
"We couldn't play defense for 80 minutes and expect to win a sectional title," said Sikinger. "...It was a little like the Falls game, where we started out playing defense, defense, defense. We were a little more aggressive (in the second half) but we really weren't able to create anything dangerous."
Meanwhile, the Warhawks kept dodging bullets from the Bulldogs but as Berg said: "We just keep knocking the ball around and trying to wear people down."
Which led to that "one great opportunity" that Sikinger alluded to.
Cedarburg senior midfielder Anny West launched a high corner kick from the left side with less than three minutes to go in regulation. It went high to the far side of the net where senior forward Lydia Koenig got a head on it and redirected it off the far post and into the net at the 77:08 mark.
"That was just a great ball by Lydia," said Berg.
The Warhawks tried to press in the final two-plus minutes but could not seriously threaten as junior midfiielder Shannon Gasper had to come off the field with an injury in the last minute.
Sikinger, whose team will graduate seven, said his team will be "motivated" for next year and noted that it is possible for the Warhawks to put themselves in the Bulldogs' shoes in 2014.
"But we have to have the drive to make it happen," he said. "It's a matter of how bad they want it."
In the case of the Bulldogs, they wanted it very badly.
"I admit, we had a little more nerves today," said Berg, "but we're a confident group. We know that each team is going to give us its best shot. That's what happens when you've been number one (ranked in the state) two years in a row."
"Now we have to finish the opportunity we've been given."
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