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McFarland outlasts Monroe
Times photo: Adam Krebs Monroe sophomore Abbey Schneider looks to turn the corner against McFarland in the Cheesemakers 2-1 loss to the Spartans in the WIAA Division 2 regional championship game Saturday at Breese Stevens Field in Madison.
MADISON - Monroe's storied season ended Saturday as the Cheesemakers (14-6-3) left it all on the field at Breese Stevens Stadium, losing 2-1 to McFarland (20-4) in the second round of the WIAA Division 2 girls soccer playoffs.

"We played a fantastic game - probably our best game of the season," head coach Miriam O'Neill said. "Everyone gave it everything they had. To stay with a team like McFarland, who has such skill and depth, is something to be proud of."

The Spartans maintained control of the ball for much of the first half. However, the Cheesemakers persevered on defense, holding McFarland scoreless with some great teamwork in the box by sweeper Alyssa Studer, defender Pam Lehman and goalkeeper Gail LaVoie.

Just one minute, 40 seconds into the game, McFarland had a breakaway at the net and blooped the ball over a charging LaVoie. Studer flew in from the outside and kicked the ball out of harms way just feet in front of the net.

LaVoie redeemed herself in what may have been the best game of her career with the Cheesemakers. At the 23:45 mark, with bodies in front of her, she made a save but dropped the ball, only to re-save it on the ground as a Spartan came sliding in feet first.

At the 30:40 mark, she got the best of another Spartan during a 1-on-1 breakaway. In all, LaVoie made 12 saves throughout the contest, including corner kicks, free kicks and breakaways.

As both teams went into the break, Monroe's determination seemed to have McFarland on edge despite the Spartans superior depth and skill.

"Everyone went out there today thinking 'We are good enough' and 'We can do this.' We wanted to be competitive and stay with them. Every single player did that," O'Neill said.

In the second half, Monroe struck first. At the 49:40 mark, two McFarland defenders collided just past midfield, and the Cheesemakers had a 2-on-2 advantage on a breakaway with freshman Chelsea Haffele and senior Catie Eiserman. Haffele dribbled through Spartan territory and sent a pass to Eiserman across the field at the top right of the box. Eiserman's one-timer looped up and over McFarland goalie Kristi Fritsch.

McFarland's Sarah Stern scored just four minutes later, penetrating through the box and past defenders before sending a shot out of the reach of LaVoie.

"Gail had a great game. But playing against players like Sarah Stern and Jacie Jermier who have scored at least 29 goals is tough. And yet, Gail was making save after save after save from these spectacular strikers," O'Neill said. Stern has scored 33 goals this season, and Jermier has 30.

In the 66th minute, McFarland's Emily Stocks scored off of a corner kick. The goal was a back-breaker for Monroe, physically and mentally.

"I think it kind of took the wind out of the sails. We don't have their depth where late in the game we can sub and have the same skilled player. We were getting tired. We had to work that much harder because McFarland is such a strong team," O'Neill said.

Monroe had two last chances at a score in the final minute, but each attempt came up short with little pressure on the net.

Despite the loss, O'Neill is proud of the way her team grew this season. Her seniors - Eiserman, Lehman, Niamh O'Neill-Culhane, Kalyn Kundert, Abby Hlubek and Erin Solawetz - have been with the program and suffered through years of getting defeated by eight, nine, or even 10 goals. That drive to come back paid off this season, as Monroe set a program record with 14 wins and being named in state rankings.

"They have been so committed to this team, that I am really honored to have them and their determination," O'Neill said. "They never miss practice, they never want a breather, they never give up - their drive and determination won games."

Next season, Monroe has a large potion of its team returning, including Haffele and sophomore Kylee Ritschard - the Cheesemakers' top strikers. Ritschard led the team with 18 goals this season.

"Chelsea and Kylee did an outstanding job this year. They are just going to get stronger over the next few years."