McEneany and Barkes

Senior Molly McEneany, left, and junior Taylor Barkes, center, keep their eyes on Catholic Memorial junior Jenny Fuller during the June 6 sectional matchup. (Photo by Andrew Tucker/Regional News)

WAUKESHA — After winning their first sectional title since 2016, the Big Foot/Williams Bay girls soccer team earned themselves a chance to face Catholic Memorial, the state’s Division 3 juggernaut.

The Lancers won six straight state titles from 2012 to 2017 and have made it to at least the state semifinals for 15 straight years. So the ChiefDogs knew that while a win was a longshot, a respectable score would be a good outcome.

When the two teams met June 6 at Carroll University’s Haertel Field, BFWB was able to keep the game close, losing 3-0 and seeing their season come to an end.

Catholic Memorial got the scoring started at the 12-minute mark when junior Lauren Brown redirected the ball with her head after senior Shannon McWilliams sent a free kick towards the goal.

Just five minutes later, the Lancers scored again, this time as senior Abby Piette scored unassisted to put them up 2-0.

Big Foot/Williams Bay’s defense put the clamps down after Piette’s goal, though, and kept Catholic Memorial off the board for the rest of the half.

All season, the backfield grouping of senior Molly McEneany, junior Olivia Peterson, junior Taylor Barkes and sophomore Emma Watters have played an out-sized role in the ChiefDogs’ success, paving the way for six shutouts and four one-goal games, and only twice allowing three or more goals, including the loss to Catholic Memorial.

“Defensively we played really well most of the season,” head coach Rene Perez said. “Those are the people that don’t get the recognition. That’s the goal scorers. But our defense is phenomenal.”

In the second half, Catholic Memorial only managed one goal, a 59th-minute corner kick goal by junior Emma Westrick, as the BFWB defense once again played lights out to keep the often-explosive Lancers under control.

By playing against the top team in the state, the Big Foot/Williams Bay players got a first-hand lesson on some of the fundamentals of the game that they can adapt to their own skill set moving forward.

“A lot of the game of soccer is mental, and a lot of what you learn is watching the game and being a student of the game,” Perez said. “A lot of what we wanted to do this year was basically done today by them offensively. Their diagonal runs, their straight balls, moving off the ball, being confident with the ball. That’s what we want to work on, and today was a great showing of that.”

The last time the ChiefDogs faced off against Catholic Memorial in the playoffs in 2016, the Lancers won 8-1. So Big Foot/Williams Bay was able to keep their heads held high with only a three-goal loss to the state title favorites.

“Three years ago, we lost to them 8-1. This year, we kept it competitive,” Perez said. “There was no crying at the end, we’re all proud of what we did today.”

After a successful season, the June 6 loss was the end of the career for a pair of Big Foot/Williams Bay starters and team captains: McEneany and Abby Peterson. The pair were important parts of the team for the past few seasons, and their presence as leaders on and off the field will be tough to replace.

However, the flip side is that the vast majority of the ChiefDogs starters and bench contributors will be back next year. If all of those returners improve over the off-season like they did during the season, Big Foot/Williams Bay could be in line for another great season next year.

“I think some players stepped up near the end of the season, so I’m looking forward to next year already,” Perez said.