Bluejays kick it up at Everest

The Merrill girls may had gotten the short stick in the seeding process, but they sure didn’t let their tough opponent ride roughshod over them.
The Jay soccer team held #1 seed D.C. Everest-a 15-5-1 squad that finished a game out of the WVC title this year-scoreless for much of last Thursday’s WIAA Regional opener before falling 3-0 after two tallies in the final five minutes.
“We held them scoreless about as long as anyone has this year,” MHS coach Will Bialecki said. “Breigha (Bienfang-Johnas) played an absolutely amazing game. Thirty saves is a pretty good game. Some of those shots were pretty good and others our defense did a good job of making them difficult.
“Ashley Millenbah, Tracey (Pophal), Alyssa (Noland) and Claire (Peterson)-our back four for most of the game-played very well. We knew Everest was going to get a lot of chances. You’re going to have to play your best to stop them, but for the most part, until the last five minutes we had a chance to take the victory away from them.
“I don’t believe I could be more proud of the girls. It’s tough to lose, but I can’t be unhappy with the effort we gave. We showed we weren’t a team that was just happy to play one more game.”
Kristen Churkey notched a goal in the 55th minute to give D.C.E. a 1-0 lead.
“After their first goal we made an adjustment to generate more offense, but by doing that we took the risk that we would give up more goals,” Bialecki said.
The Merrill defense still held until the 73rd minute when Churkey set up Gina Widmer. Churkey made it 3-0 in the 77th minute with yet another play.
Bienfang-Johnas made 14 saves in the first half and backed it up with 16 in the second half.
Merrill finished with just one shot on goal from Noland.
“We only had the one shot on goal, but Ellen (Donner), Shelby (Swiechowski) and Sydney (Harris) put a few shots just wide,” Bialecki said.
The Jays closed out a 4-16 season with the loss.
“The D.C.Everest coach gave us high praise,” Bialecki said. “He said again that we were the last team he wanted to see in the first round of the playoffs.
“It’s too bad the season had to end. There was something special about this team. They were a treat to coach. I wish we weren’t graduating any seniors, but we’re lucky we had some fun while they were here.”

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