Arrowhead boys soccer coach Jeff Staus empasizes a simple philosophy:
"Play what's in front of you" or more simply don't get ahead of yourself. Keep the ball in play, look for the open man, and win the next game.
That's what the top-ranked team in the state Saturday night, as it used a nifty Colin Dibb goal in the 57th minute to beat host Germantown, 1-0, in the WIAA sectional final and earn its first state tournament berth since 2009.
"He wants us to keep battling, to keep playing our game," said senior co-captain and midfielder Colin Koerber. "Above all, stay calm and execute."
Because they maintained that mantra, the visitors (19-0-2) earned the right to play in a a WIAA State Division I semifinal against Classic 8 rival Musekgo (21-4-2) on Friday, Nov. 1 at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.
Arrowhead beat Muskego back in August.
"Our two goals entering the season were to win the Classic 8 and to get to state," Staus said. "The kids did a nice job of achieving both those goals."
"...This was nice, but this wasn't really a group that we were pointing to this year. Our program is in such a position where it (a state berth) is a goal every year. Last year, a lot of these kids were on a team that got bounced early (in the tournament) so they wanted this and they got it."
Meanwhile, the host team Germantown (12-6-1) was relishing its deepest run ever in the WIAA tournament but also wondering about the opportunities that were missed.
"After we got through the nerves (of the first 15 minutes or so), we got after them a bit," said Germantown coach Omar Sethi. "It wound up being a 50/50 game, end to end. Both teams had their chances. Give credit to Arrowhead, they tucked one of their chances away and we didn't."
That chance came in the 57th minute, when the senior forward Dibb, whom Staus called a "marked man" for his skill ariound the goal, made an aggressive run down the right side.
He gave it up briefly to senior midfielder Ryan Rice, got it back relatively untouched, and snapped a quick shot to the far left post past an onrushing Germantown goalie Nicholas Sucher.
"I got the ball and I just kept moving," said Dibb. "Coach has been hounding us to get into transition quicker and find the open man. I made the run and Ryan hit the ball back to me."
That was scarcely the only drama in the tightly fought game.
In the first half, a Germantown effort was just missed where the Arrowhead keeper bobbled a shot out front but gathered it in just in time before a Germantown player could get there for the follow.
Early in the second half, Germantown had a point blank shot but the ball was pushed over the net.
Arrowhead also made sure that Germantown senior star midfielder Paul Ciszewski was held in check, frequently triple-teaming him. Still, Ciszewski had chances, including some on free kicks which were plentiful in this physical and intense game which featured a yellow card on each side.
Germantown did not roll over after Dibb's goal and kept the pressure on the Arrowhead goal. It's best opportunity came in the 68th minute when a shot from just outside the box turned out to be a little high and hit the crossbar.
In the last minute, a free kick from the right side was a bit long and wide.
"It was going to be a close game, a game where the team that put away its chances was going to win," said Sethi. "...It was just a great game to watch. They missed some chances, we missed some chances."
"...I thought we showed a great will to compete."
So did Arrowhead, and now the visitors are going to state.
As the awards were being presented, Staus made sure no one was forgotten. He instructed team members to go back to the bench and pick up Rice and carry him to the ceremonies. A few minutes after assisting on the goal, Rice had injured an ankle and had a bag of ice wrapped around it.
He was smiling broadly as his friends lifted him across the field.
"We thought we'd have A good shot at getting here (state) this season," said Koerber. "We knew we were a good team. We've been together since Lake Country United (as kids) and we also have good young guys in the mix too."
Which brought Staus back to his mantra.
"We couldn't get too far in front of ourselves," he said. "Oconomowoc played us tough, (Menomonee) Falls played us tough and so did these guys tonight."
"Play what's in front of you."
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