High expectations are nothing new to the Brookfield Central girls soccer team, as the success of the program has left with lofty goals each and every season.
This year is no different, as the Lancers entered the season as the top-ranked team in the Division 1 state coaches poll and 32nd in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer.
Brookfield Central brings back eight All-Greater Metro Conference players from last year's squad that went unbeaten at 14-0-3 overall and 6-0-2 in the Greater Metro to share the league title with Divine Savior Holy Angels. The Lancers rolled to a regional title before falling in penalty kicks to eventual state-champion DSHA in a sectional semifinal game that was played over two days due to lightning.
A game fit to be played at state instead was decided at the sectional level, leaving one of the top two-ranked teams out in the Round of 16.
It appears as if it will be a battle between Brookfield Central and DSHA yet again, not only for the Greater Metro crown but potentially for a trip to the state tournament. DSHA is ranked just behind the Lancers at No. 2 and No. 36 in the nation. Also in the same loaded sectional is fourth-ranked Arrowhead.
"We are very excited this year about this group and as a staff it has been something that we have been meeting all offseason about," Brookfield Central coach Dan Makal said. "We are looking forward to seeing how we develop and grow as we move forward throughout the season. That being said, it's still one day at time, and we are not looking back at last year and what could have been. It's a new animal now and that's our only focus."
It has not been smooth sailing for the Lancers in the early going, as injuries have prevented them from fielding a full lineup.
Already having to replace first-team All-Greater Metro defender Rachel Kolb, the Lancers' injuries have slowed returning first-team selections senior midfielder Claire Haynes and junior forward Emma Staszkiewicz and second-team pick junior midfielder Jenny Cape.
Staszkiewicz, who led Central with 31 goals and 66 points a year ago, is still working her way back from a torn anterior cruciate ligament suffered against DSHA in the sectional semifinal. Haynes is coming back from a serious back injury, as she broke two transverse processes — the bones that protrude from the vertebrae — in the second game of the basketball season.
Cape is battling aplastic anemia, which kept her out the entire basketball season. Additionally, sophomore midfielder Mikayla Lazarski currently has a neck injury and a concussion and sophomore midfielder Molly Stritesky is fighting through a knee injury.
Fortunately for the Lancers, it appears as if all players battling injuries will return at some point this season.
"Right now we are working on getting healthy," Makal said. "Injuries have made us search for new answers, but we look forward to getting all of these great kids back into the fold."
In addition to Staszkiewicz and Haynes, the Lancers bring back first-team All-Greater Metro players in senior forward Caroline Busch and junior midfielder Brandi Thompson, a University of Cincinnati recruit.
Also returning are second-team picks in Cape, junior midfielder Sarah Knopp, junior defender Megan Stritesky and senior goalkeeper Sarah Pasternak.
Other returning letterwinners include senior goalkeeper Mia Manney, senior defender Elizabeth Busch, junior defender Meghan Donahue, Lazarski, Molly Stritesky, senior Nora Barker, sophomore midfielder Abby Mumm, sophomore forward Ashley Borowski and senior forward Ashlyn Mattes. Newcomers to the varsity roster are junior midfielder Heather Hodges, freshman forward Carissa Kinnart, freshman midfielder Ryann Locante and junior defender Julia Manby.
"We are bringing back a very strong and competitive team with great leadership and ability," Makal said. "The best part about our group and one of their best strengths is that they are better people than players. As a coaching staff, you really cannot ask for a better scenario. They get along well with each other and are really willing to always do what is best for the team rather than themselves. The character that these girls have is incredible."
The Lancers split their first two games of the season, claiming a 3-0 victory over Wauwatosa East on March 28 before losing 2-0 to New Trier (Illinois) in a battle of nationally-ranked teams on April 1.
Brookfield Central led 2-0 at halftime against Tosa East on goals from Cape and Mattes. Caroline Busch added a goal in the second half to complete the scoring.
Caroline Busch assisted on Cape's goal, while Knopp had the assist on the goal by Mattes. Pasternak and Manney split the game in goal to combine on the clean sheet.
The Lancers played New Trier to a scoreless half before the Trevians scored twice in the second half. The three-time defending Illinois state champions, New Trier is ranked 9th in the nation.
"We have a lot of experience from players that have been on the team for multiple years and with the addition of two freshmen this year that tradition continues," Makal said. "We are very fortunate to have players that are willing to embrace the way we want to play and are always looking to grow and improve rather than prove anything to anyone. We have a handful of college soccer players in the squad and seemingly more to come."