SHOREWOOD — In each of the past two seasons, the Big Foot/Williams Bay girls soccer team has made it to the regional final, only to fall just short of the title.
This season, the ChiefDogs once again made it to the regional championship game with a 4-0 win over Delavan-Darien on May 30, earning themselves a shot at the regional crown against Shorewood on June 1.
The Greyhounds are a familiar foe for Big Foot/Williams Bay, after Shorewood knocked the ChiefDogs out of the playoffs by a 6-1 score in 2017.
With a number of the same girls remaining from the 2017 BFWB squad, the team was out for revenge, and head coach Rene Perez could feel that this season’s game was going to go differently than the five-goal defeat two years ago.
“We came here two years ago, and they really took it to us. This year is different; everybody just really wants to win,” Perez said.
His intuition was correct, as the five-seed ChiefDogs pulled off the upset over the four-seed Greyhounds with a 2-1 victory to claim the program’s first regional title since 2016.
In the game’s opening minutes, both teams looked even, swapping possessions back-and-forth around midfield without either getting a good chance to attack.
However, at the 15-minute mark, a foul by Big Foot/Williams Bay gave Shorewood a penalty kick. BFWB freshman goalkeeper Maylani Venegas got a hand on the shot from Shorewood sophomore Maya Wille, but the ball still found the back of the net to put the home team up 1-0.
Facing a one-goal deficit that early in the game, the ChiefDogs could have gone one of two ways: Either they collapse under the pressure and let the Greyhounds’ lead continue to grow, or they buckle down and get better.
They chose the latter.
Big Foot/Williams Bay’s offense got more aggressive after going down 1-0, and 10 minutes later, senior Abby Peterson hit a shot from just outside the penalty box that lofted over the outstretched arm of Shorewood goalie Selame Caldart to equalize the score at 1-1.
After another 10 minutes, Peterson found herself in the same spot on the field. And after scoring the prior goal, she knew she had it in her to do it again.
“I hit one before, and I believe in myself and my teammates. That’s what drove me to have confidence to score,” Peterson said.
Sure enough, Peterson’s shot once again was just over the fingertips of Caldart and the ChiefDogs took a 2-1 lead with 55 minutes left to hold the lead.
In those remaining minutes, the BFWB defense stepped up and shut down the Greyhounds to lead the team to victory. For the final 15 minutes or so, Perez shifted Peterson and the rest of the midfield back to provide extra defensive help.
Against a strong team like Shorewood, Big Foot/Williams Bay knew they would need to be at their best to beat the best.
“There’s no winning games without defense,” Peterson said. “We understood that Shorewood’s a really good team, and they’re going to come out fighting. But we’re going to come out fighting, too.”
With how well the goalkeeper Venegas played throughout the game, though, it almost looked as though she did not need any defenders helping her. She made a number of jumping, sliding or diving stops to turn great Shorewood opportunities into nothing.
Only a freshman, Venegas has shown tremendous growth throughout the year, and is no doubt a big part of why the ChiefDogs have advanced to the sectional round of the playoffs.
“She’s really picked it up the second half of the season, and her confidence is just getting up, and she’s playing really well,” Perez said.
Big Foot/Williams Bay’s regional finals win sets the team up with a June 6 sectional matchup against the best Division 3 soccer team in the state: Catholic Memorial. The Crusaders were state title runners-up last season, but before that, they had won six state championships in a row.
While the ChiefDogs will have an uphill battle, Perez is grateful for the opportunity to take on one of the state’s powerhouses.
“I’m trying to build something here with these girls. That’s where I want to be, playing against the top teams and seeing where you’re really at,” Perez said “I’m looking forward to getting back to work and playing the best in the state.”
To advance to the regional championship game, the ChiefDogs first had to beat Delevan-Darien in a May 30 game in Williams Bay, which BFWB did by a score of 4-0.
The Comets were the underdogs, but they did not look like it in the first five minutes, coming out strong and putting a lot of pressure on the Big Foot defense. It did not result in a goal, however, and when ChiefDogs senior Sophie Rasmussen scored off an assist from Peterson at the seven-minute mark to go up 1-0, Delavan-Darien deflated and did not have many decent scoring chances for the rest of the game.
It took 30 minutes for BFWB to score again, with junior Maya Torrez scoring off a Peterson assist in the 37th minute.
Junior Abby Vandebogert was the next ChiefDogs player to score, netting a goal to put the team up 3-0 at the 62-minute mark.
Big Foot/Williams Bay’s final goal of the game came with only 10 minutes left on the clock, when Peterson kicked a rocket that was stopped by the Delavan-Darien goalkeeper, only for Rasmussen to come in and score on the rebound.
While the 4-0 score would make it seem like BFWB cruised past the Comets, it was a hard-fought game that Perez felt would be good preparation for the team’s playoff run.
“They’re just a scrappy team. They never gave up and they were trying to beat us in the middle with their more physical play,” Perez said of the Comets. “When you get deeper into the playoffs, that’s the kind of teams you’ll play. I think we handled it fine.”