Bad memories of a discouraging 2008 tournament loss were fresh on the mind of high-scoring Whitefish Bay soccer forward Robert Courtney when an ill-timed richochet resulted in an own goal and a tie game in the first half with rival Nicolet in a WIAA regional final Thursday night.
Fortunately, Courtney, who had earlier given the North Shore champion Blue Dukes the lead, had an answer 17 minutes into the second half, as he split two defenders from about 15 yards out and rammed a shot to the far left post to give the Blue Dukes a 2-1 win over the Knights.
"I wanted to put pressure on them so I took a touch," Courtney said. "I was able to get between the two (defenders) and I knew if I put the ball on the ground, the keeper would have a hard time defending it."
"But I tell, it was a bad feeling when that rebound went it," he said, referring to the 2008 WIAA loss the Blue Dukes suffered at the hand of the Knights due largely in part to two own goals by Bay. "I just went 'Oh no!'"
However, it is the second-seeded Blue Dukes (10-7) who are going "Oh yes" as they will host South Milwaukee (a 2-1 winner over Greenfield) in a WIAA sectional semifinal on Oct. 22. Bay is looking forward to a sectional final back on their own field on Oct. 24 against top seed and defending WIAA state champion Marquette.
"We sort of wanted that last year," Courtney said, "but we got a little ahead of ourselves (losing to Nicolet). Fortunately, we were able to take care of business today."
Bay coach Mike Kops was grateful that Courtney, who pounded in a point blank rebound of a Brady King shot at the 17-minute mark of the first half, was on his side this night.
"He's a tough little player," Kops said. "He just has a knack."
The loss finished the Knight season at 5-14-2. Coach Brian Weisse, whose team was crunched by Bay 3-0 in the regular season, was pleased with the effort.
Nicolet had a point blank chance to tie the score at the 68-minute mark fly over the net after the Bay goalie couldn't control the rebound and had a free kick chance with less than five minutes remaining only to be deflected out by the Blue Dukes.
"We had opportunities but that's been our story all year long," Weisse said, "but it was a much different game than the first time around. Playoffs usually are. I was happy how we pushed them to the limit. I was proud of the guys."
So was Kops of his players.
"It was more interesting than it probably should have been," he said, "but this was a conference team and no matter what the records were, they came in here thinking that they could win the game. We had to be ready to finish this."
Weisse was impressed by the Blue Dukes.
"That's a good team we lost to. I think they can push Marquette to the limit," he said.
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