MILWAUKEE — With the final seconds of overtime — and their season — ticking off the clock Thursday evening, members of the Madison West boys soccer team watched as senior midfielder Paolo Gratton unleashed one last attempt at an equalizer.
It missed, just to the left.
And the Regents’ wild postseason run ended with a 2-1 overtime loss to the top-ranked Division 1 team, Milwaukee Marquette, in a WIAA state semifinal at Uihlein Soccer Park.
But for West’s Drew Kornish, that shot represented something far greater than a missed opportunity to face Hartland Arrowhead in the final.
“The boys gave everything they had, down to the final seconds,” said the first-year coach, whose Regents finished 14-6-1. “I couldn’t be happier with the way we played, not just tonight but the entire season.”
That season included a rough mid-season stretch that saw West drop three of four Big Eight Conference matches — leaving the Regents 6-4-1 overall and 3-3 in the conference and forcing some soul-searching, both from the players and Kornish.
Soon after: A seven-match winning streak, including a run of six consecutive shutouts that earned West, which reached state in 2015, a berth after missing out last year.
“It was a learning process for the boys, but also myself, too,” Kornish said of his team’s mid-season struggle. “We took our lumps — and I take the blame for a lot of those lumps, getting to know the guys. It took some time to come together. But we knew if we were able to come together, this is what we’d be able to do. Tonight, we had an opportunity to take down one of the best teams in the nation. I couldn’t ask for more.”
The Regents’ six-match run of shutouts came to an end in the 23rd minute. Junior midfielder Tom Bruneau fed junior forward Kade Coakley for a header at the far post to give the Hilltoppers (19-3-1) a 1-0 lead. Until then, the most recent goal West allowed came from Janesville Craig’s Owen Aldrich in the 11th minute of a 5-1 West victory on Oct. 10 — a defensive run spanning 641 minutes.
“That goal settled us in and took a lot of pressure off us,” Kornish said. “The streak was over, so we could just go out and play soccer.
“After they scored, the game really opened up for us. We possessed in their half for a large portion of the first half. We actually had a lot of confidence after that goal.”
West got it back early in the second when Gratton took a pass from junior forward Ian Shi for his 10th score of the season at 50:02.
Junior goalkeeper Alex Alvarado came up big for the Regents two minutes later, jumping to pull down a shot. He had to go high again in the 74th to snare a header from Hilltoppers sophomore midfielder Luke Thew.
Shi had a chance to put West back in front in the 87th, but his header was too strong.
The teams headed to extra time, where Bruneau fed senior forward Nicholas Cheung for the go-ahead score in the 99th minute.
“They got a lucky bounce on their goal and they capitalized on it,” said Alvarado, who notched a pair of saves against the Hilltoppers, the top vote-getter outside this week’s USA TODAY/United Soccer Coaches Super 25 poll. “They got a couple of opportunities and they capitalized, but we fought incredibly hard. This might be one of the best games we ever had. We almost had them.”
Madison West 0 1 0 0 — 1
Milwaukee Marquette 1 0 1 0 — 2
First half: MM — Coakley (T. Bruneau), 22:32. Second half: MW — Gratton (Shi), 50:02. Overtime: MM — Cheung (T. Bruneau), 98:40.
Shots — MW (2-8-1-2) 13 (Lumani 4, Shi 3, Cooper 2, Gratton 2); MM (5-4-1-0) 10 (Arellano 4, T. Bruneau 2). Shots on goal — MW 3 (Lumani 2, Gratton 1); MM 4 (Coakley 1, Thew 1, Cheung 1, T. Bruneau 1). Saves — MW (Alvarado 1-1-0-0) 2; MM (Abbott 1-1-0-0) 2. Corner kicks — MW (1-4-0-0) 5; MM (1-4-2-1) 8. Offside — MW 1, MM 3. Yellow cards — MM 2 (Lambo, Harrington).
Hartland Arrowhead 4, Eau Claire Memorial 2
Kyle Cissne scored the go-ahead goal in the 79th minute and Jake Stemper had a goal and two assists as the Warhawks (16-3-3) pulled past the Old Abes (20-3-2).
Eau Claire Memorial 2 0 — 2
Hartland Arrowhead 1 3 — 4
First half: HA — Stemper, 1:30. ECM — Rosenberger, 24:57; Martinez (Longville), 41:23. Second half: HA — Kreitlow (Stemper), 52:26; Cissne, 78:13; Dubnicka (Stemper), 81:44.
Shots — ECM 7-5-12; HA 3-5-8. Shots on goal — ECM 5; HA 6. Saves — ECM (Hanson 0-2) 2; HA (Marquardt 2-1) 3. Corner kicks — ECM (1-2) 3; HA (2-2) 4. Offside — ECM 0; HA 2.