MILWAUKEE — Coach Tok Kim admitted his Sun Prairie Cardinals weren’t just playing one of the strongest teams in the Midwest on Friday.
Kim’s Cardinals were up against one of the great legacies in Wisconsin high school sports: the 27-championship history of the Milwaukee Marquette boys soccer program.
“It was our first trip to state,” Kim said, “and the kids were nervous playing against a team of that caliber. It was just tough for us. We’ve never seen a team like that.”
Marquette, ranked No. 8 in USA Today’s Super 25 national rankings this week, scored twice in the first six minutes, added a third goal in the 24th minute and then rode its defense rest of the way to a 3-0 victory in a WIAA Division 1 state semifinal at Uihlein Soccer Park.
Top-ranked Marquette (19-1-2) secured the chance to earn what would be the program’s 28th state championship when it takes on Sussex Hamilton (16-1-3) at 4:30 p.m. today.
The Hilltoppers have won the past four WIAA Division 1 titles, and have earned 13 titles in the 18 years since they joined the WIAA. Prior to that, the Hilltoppers won 14 championships as a member of the private-schools WISAA.
Sun Prairie (14-6-3) earned its state berth with a seasoned lineup and a roster that included 19 seniors and 14 returning letterwinners. But Marquette was not fazed, holding the Cardinals to only three shots, and Hilltoppers goalkeepers Carter Abbott and Alex Grow did not have to make a save.
Kim, who capped his first year as coach, said recent injuries in the back line, particularly to midfielder John Trilling, made it difficult to contain the Hilltoppers’ attack and win possession.
“He’s been our backbone there and we really missed him today,” Kim said. “Normally, teams rely on one or two scorers. But they just have so many people who can hurt you.”
Marquette, which came in with five double-digit scorers, quickly took advantage. Junior Zack Nebbia took a corner kick from senior Thomas Bruneau and headed it in just 2:32 in.
The Hilltoppers then went back on the attack. Senior Osvaldo Sanchez-Arellano converted a close-in one-timer on a pass from junior Miguel Herrera at 5:23.
Marquette finished the scoring at 23:35. Sanchez-Arellano launched a shot from the top of the box Sun Prairie goalkeeper Tanner Scherer had no chance to stop.
Marquette’s defense thoroughly bottled up Sun Prairie senior forward Kyle Hagerman, who ranks among the state scoring leaders with 47 goals. Not only did Marquette control possession, but whenever the Butler University recruit did get the ball, he was surrounded by two and sometimes three defenders.
He got off only two shots, including a free kick from near the top of the box at the 40-minute mark that skimmed the top of the goal. Marquette outshot Sun Prairie 20-3.
Kim swapped Ryan Traut into goal for the second half, and he put in a sound effort, keeping the Cardinals within striking distance with four good saves.
Kim said he was not disappointed with the effort.
“They (the Hilltoppers) just possess the ball so well,” Kim said. “We needed to get control of the ball to have a chance, and we just couldn’t. We had a little success against their second team. We could compete against them, but their starting lineup was just too tough for us.”
He praised the team for adapting well to its third different head coach in as many seasons, learning a new system in the process. The co-captains this season were Hagerman, Bubacarr Bah, and Andrew Shanahan.
“The kids had to learn on the run and they did a great job,” Kim said.
Sun Prairie 0 0 — 0
Milwaukee Marquette 3 0 — 3
First half: MM — Nebbia (T. Bruneau), 2:32; Arellano (Herrera), 5:23; Arellano (Herrera), 23:35.
Shots: SP 3 (Hagerman 2, Lederman 1); MM 20 (Herrera 4, Arellano 4, Nebbia 3, Henderson 2, Anguil 2, Y. Bruneau 2, Thew 2, M. Bruneau 1). Shots on goal: SP 0; MM 10 (Nebbia 3, Arellano 2, Herrera, M. Bruneau, Thew, T. Bruneau, Henderson).
Saves: SP 6 (Scherer 2, Traut 4); MM 0 (Abbott 0, Grow 0). Corner kicks: SP 1; MM 10. Fouls: SP 15; MM 9. Offside: SP 0; MM 2. Yellow cards: SP 2 (Bah 1, Hagerman 1).