Whitefish Bay – For 40 minutes Thursday night, Whitefish Bay freshman forward Abby Starker was frustrated and flummoxed.
She couldn't find the net when she shot. She could hardly get open to shoot. And she couldn't go anywhere without attracting a crowd of defenders in the Blue Dukes' WIAA Division 1 girls soccer sectional semifinal against Greendale.
"We had the ball most of the time in the first half, and we didn't have anything to show for it," said Starker, one of the team's leading scorers. "But we knew it was just a matter of time."
Starker's time came in the second half, when she scored two goals and helped Whitefish Bay defeat the Panthers, 2-0. The Blue Dukes (16-5-3) advance to play defending Division 1 state champion Divine Savior Holy Angels, which defeated Nicolet, 3-0, in the other sectional semifinal Thursday. That sectional final, with a state tournament berth on the line, will be at Whitefish Bay at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Whitefish Bay and DSHA played to a 2-2, double-overtime draw April 8.
"We have a lot of respect for them and for what they have done as a program," Whitefish Bay coach Robert Williams said. "But we would love to have another chance against them."
They will, after finally taking care of business Thursday. In the first half, Greendale (11-12-1) did a good job double-teaming Starker. She almost instantly had at least one defender - usually Greendale junior Katrina Knezic - on her when she touched the ball.
"She's a forward and she is used to that," Williams said. "We told her to be patient. We worked all week on switching the point of attack. We worked hard at that and that hard work paid off."
The Blue Dukes, ranked No. 5 in the area and seventh among Division 1 teams in the state coaches' poll, dominated possession in the first half. The defense-minded Panthers crammed eight players in Whitefish Bay's half of the field, clogged the goal box, and stymied any and all scoring chances.
But Greendale's commitment to defense left it virtually without any offense. The Panthers had one dangerous chance in the half, when Kinsey Campbell squeezed between two defenders and almost beat Blue Dukes goalkeeper Olivia Hoff to a pass.
"When you play a team as talented as this, you have to play to your strength," Greendale coach George Knezic said. "We came in with a plan. But we had to change our strategy after they scored the first goal."
In the 50th minute, Whitefish Bay junior Kaitlin Theder got a ball over Greendale's back defenders. Starker ran under it, got to it and fired the ball past Greendale keeper Amy Kunowski.
In the 62nd minute, Starker finished off a nice combination play with senior Kayla Jenkins, who provided Whitefish Bay with a spark off the bench. Jenkins fed a nice pass on the left to Starker, who drove in and sliced the ball into the far post.
"We gave them what we had," Knezic said. "That's a good, well-coached team."
Second half - 1, WB, Abby Starker (Alison Amateis), 49:00; 2, WB, Starker (Kayla Jankins), 61:00. Shots - GD 4; WB 7. Saves - GD 5; WB 4. Record - WB 16-5-3.
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