EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Two area prep boys soccer teams are heading to the state tournament this week: Eau Claire Memorial and McDonell/Regis. Both teams have taken quite different journeys to the state tournament. The teams are our Osseo Automotive Athletes of the Week.
Memorial in division one at 20 wins, 2 losses, 2 draws and McDonell/Regis in Division four at 11-4-3: both staring at a chance to bring home some hardware at the state championship.
“We've changed. We've become a lot better,” David Kite, Memorial’s head coach, said. “So we're looking forward to the occasion."
Memorial’s playoff run has been eventful; their last 3 contests were one goal affairs.
The Old Abes have played tough competition this season and have been ranked #2 in division one nearly all year. Their opponent on Thursday in the semifinal is one they’ve beaten already this year.
"We met them early in the year,” Kite said. “We go to Heartland/Arrowhead each year and play in a quad. We beat them 4-2. We've seen them before. So we kind of know what to go in to. They've changed a lot over the season. They've become a lot better.”
“We always look to compete against the best teams in the state, so often, we have to down to the cities like Madison or Milwaukee to find that competition and I feel like that really helps us be prepared for big games like this,” Will Orser, a senior for Memorial, said.
For Jack Longville, a senior, and 7 other seniors, it’s their last push for a state championship.
“It’s kind of a one last ride situation and to be able to make it to the state tournament is great,” Longville said. “It’s great for us. We’re extremely happy about it.”
McDonell/Regis’ playoff run has been a little different than Memorial’s; in their 4 playoff games leading up to the state tournament, the Saints have outscored their opponents 23-2. Joe Cash, first year head coach, wasn’t expecting a state appearance, and quite frankly, wasn’t expecting to be coaching this team.
“When I took over with the boys, it was more or less just game by game, figuring out who was who,” Cash said. “Then figuring out where we were weak and what we needed to build on and going from there.”
Exceeding expectations is one way to explain the Saints 1st state appearance since 2009.
“Definitely surprised,” Zach Yengo, a senior for the Saints, said about their 2017 season. “We didn’t think it would even be in our wheelhouse at the beginning of the season. Actually, at the beginning of the season, our goal was to get further than we did last year.”
“We battled through a lot of adversity having multiple coaches come in,” Joey Huffcutt, a senior for McDonell/Regis, said. “But to get this far is a great accomplishment. And we hope to make some noise down at state and I think we have a good chance to do that.”
In the state semifinals at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee, Memorial will take on Arrowhead at 7pm on Thursday and McDonell/Regis will take on The Prairie School on Friday at 11am.