From preseason No. 1 to state champs, Brookfield Central completes journey

The Lancers completed the journey from being the top-ranked team in the preseason to winning their first Division 1 state championship since 2005.

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For 12 long months, Brookfield Central’s girls soccer team had to deal with a multitude of emotions.

The Lancers first had to overcome the disappointment of losing a heartbreaking sectional-semifinal game that should have been played at the state tournament. Then came the pressure of being the preseason favorite to win the gold ball.

Now, Brookfield Central can experience the jubilation that comes with being the state champion.

The Lancers completed the journey to their fifth state championship in school history and their first since 2005 with a 3-0 victory over Bay Port in the WIAA Division 1 state championship match June 17 at Uihlein Soccer Park.

“I think we’ve always had high expectations for ourselves and everyone else has had high expectations for us,” Central forward Jenny Cape said. “We knew we had the talent and the skill and the chemistry to win a state championship.

“Our coach (Dan Makal) said, ‘Always a bridesmaid, never the bride.’ We’re finally the bride.”

Along the way, the Lancers had key players Cape (aplastic anemia), Emma Staszkiewicz (torn ACL last June) and Claire Haynes (back injury in basketball season) overcome serious ailments to become standout contributors.

"The expectations helped push us," Staszkiewicz said. "But at the same time, the pressure was there, and the pressure was on us all of the time. We came through.

"We have a lot of talent but we also faced a lot of adversity. Everyone pushed through what they had to go through. We all played our hearts out today, in the playoffs and in the season. All of that combined made us successful." 

Brookfield Central (15-2-2 overall) dominated play in the first half but could not capitalize on multiple early chances.

Just as she did in a 4-0 semifinal win over Oconomowoc on June 15, Cape put the Lancers on the board. The junior blasted a shot just inside the right post from the corner of the 18-yard box off a pass from Abbie Mumm at the 34 minute, 51-second mark to put Brookfield Central up, 1-0.

Bay Port (24-3-1) nearly equalized on multiple occasions early in the second half, but Lancers goalkeeper Sarah Pasternak was up to the task when she was tested.

Pasternak corralled a loose ball off a corner kick in the 55th minute and made her first save of the match on a 21-yard free kick by Amber Freeman after a yellow card was called on Meghan Donahue at 56:21.

Brookfield Central received some breathing room at 58:44 when Staszkiewicz hammered home a ball that was deflected in front of the net by Sarah Knopp.

"I was lucky enough to be there and get enough to get it in there," Staszkiewicz said. "We always need that breathing room. We want that second one always."

The Pirates made a run at an answer in the 63rd minute when McKenzie Johnson got free on a breakaway, but Pasternak got her fingertips on a shot to push the ball over the crossbar.

Cape sealed the victory by sending in a free kick from nearly 30 yards at 88:58. 

After having talented teams fall short of reaching the state tournament in each of the past two seasons, Brookfield Central was able to break through to Uihlein Soccer Park by winning a sectional that featured the top-four ranked teams in Division 1.

The Lancers then outscored Oconomowoc and Bay Port, 6-0, in two matches at state to collect their first state championship since winning four straight titles under coach Bryan Yenor from 2002-05.

Makal, who won a state title as a player at Wauwatosa East in 1998, took over the program in 2014 and has led Brookfield Central to 50 wins in 65 games. But the Lancers hadn't jumped back over the hump, until now. 

"I told them that there are three great moments in my life: getting married, having kids and winning a state championship," said Makal, who also led the Brookfield Central boys soccer team to state in 2016. "It is something you get to do with your friends. You get 21 kids together to accomplish a goal. It is just so much different than individualized athletics.

"I’m so excited for them because now they get it. Once you get to this point, you get this feeling that you never want to let go."

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