Members of the 2018 Division 4 Sectional championship team from Northland Pines High School are, front row from left, Connor Feckett, Trevor Romatoski, Brett Wilkins, Alex Sternhagen, Lawson Bau, Cooper Cox, Gabe Hickson, Zach Maillette, Drew Christenson and Mason Hogenmiller; and back row, coach Rodney Sternhagen,  manager Tanner Kiesow, Ryan Muench, Liam Oas, Jason Ritter, Braxtin Bell, Colby Kruse, Patrick Roth, Sam Gremban, Owen Uebe, Jack Gremban, Bjorn Luebke and head coach Mark Pinski. The team will play Sturgeon Bay in the Division 4 State semifinal Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Milwaukee. —Staff Photos By DOUG ETTEN
Members of the 2018 Division 4 Sectional championship team from Northland Pines High School are, front row from left, Connor Feckett, Trevor Romatoski, Brett Wilkins, Alex Sternhagen, Lawson Bau, Cooper Cox, Gabe Hickson, Zach Maillette, Drew Christenson and Mason Hogenmiller; and back row, coach Rodney Sternhagen, manager Tanner Kiesow, Ryan Muench, Liam Oas, Jason Ritter, Braxtin Bell, Colby Kruse, Patrick Roth, Sam Gremban, Owen Uebe, Jack Gremban, Bjorn Luebke and head coach Mark Pinski. The team will play Sturgeon Bay in the Division 4 State semifinal Thursday at 1:30 p.m. in Milwaukee. —Staff Photos By DOUG ETTEN
For the eighth time in school history and the first time since 2007 the Northland Pines boys soccer team is headed back to the WIAA State Soccer Championships after punching their ticket Saturday afternoon with an 8-2 defeat of Marshfield Columbus Catholic.

“When we started the season I knew going to State was a possibility, but I also knew a lot of things would have to go our way and we’d have to work really, really hard,” head coach Mark Pinski said. “There have been a few ups and downs this year, but this team has stuck together and come out on top. I am very proud of this team. They worked so hard.

“It’s such a great group of boys who practice hard, play harder and do whatever I ask of them. They are very deserving of this opportunity.”

In a game played at Wisconsin Rapids Elementary School, Pines exploded on the offensive end as six different Eagles got in on the offensive onslaught with goals scored.

The offensive burst came just two days after Pines handled the Washburn Co-op in a 3-0 home win in the semifinal.

Following the win Pines (15-3-4) was voted into the No. 3 seed as part of the four-team Division 4 State finals and will play Thursday at 1:30 p.m. against No. 2 seed Sturgeon Bay (20-4-1).

At 11 a.m. that morning will be the other matchup in Division 4, pitting top-seeded The Prairie School (16-1-5) against No. 4 seed Lake Mills (14-8-3).

Winners of Thursday’s matchups will compete for the Division 4 title in a game set for Saturday at 11 a.m. in Milwaukee at the KOHLER Engines Stadium at Uihlein Soccer Park.

Prior to heading south Pines will get two days of practice as they’ll bus to Lakeland Union High School in Minocqua to get the feel of their artificial turf before hitting the road Wednesday for Milwaukee.

“We aren’t going to run too hard these next few days,” said Pinski. “We want to get some rest in our legs and just work on a lot of the stuff we’ve worked on all year to make sure they’re ready to go Thursday.”

Northland Pines Athletic Director Brian Margelofsky said the district will offer fans  transportation to and from the game and include a game ticket for just $10.

Margelofsky said a minimum of 30 individuals are needed in order to utilize the bus transportation. The bus will depart from Northland Pines High School at 8 a.m. Thursday, make a stop on the way down and back and return to Eagle River at around 9 p.m. Thursday night.

Community members or high school students are welcome. Those in eighth grade or younger need a parent or guardian to accompany them. To sign up, call (715) 479-6286 or stop by the high school office.



About the field

The Prairie School was issued the top seed in the Division 4 bracket.

The Hawks return for the ninth time overall, their last coming in 2017. In their previous eight experiences at State, they have advanced to the title game in each of the appearances, including six championships.

The Hawks won back-to-back titles on two different occasions, capturing Division 2 titles in 2004-’05 and then duplicating that feat in 2010-’11. They won Division 4 crowns in 2014 and 2017.

Their other two experiences resulted in runner-up finishes in Division 3 in 2003 and in Division 4 in 2014.

Prior to joining the WIAA as a former member of WISAA, the Hawks finished runner-up four times­ – in 1985, 1993, 1995 and 1996.

Saturday they defeated Brookfield Academy 3-0 in the Sectional final hosted by the Hawks to continue their pursuit of a seventh title after winning the Metro Classic Conference this season.

No. 2 seed Sturgeon Bay qualifies for the third year in a row and for the eighth time overall. It is also the Clippers’ sixth State appearance in the last seven seasons.

They won the program’s only championship in 2015 and finished runner-up in 2017. This season, they advance to the semifinals by outlasting Oostburg, 2-1, in overtime, in the final of the Kohler Sectional and were champions of the Packerland Conference this year.

Northland Pines is the No. 3 seed and is qualifying for the State Tournament for the eighth time and for the first time since 2007.

Each of the Eagles’ previous experiences came in Division 2. They are attempting to advance beyond the semifinals for the first time.

The Eagles cruised past Columbus Catholic 8-2 in the Nekoosa Sectional final played at Wisconsin Rapids to earn their berth in the tournament field.

Pines tied for first place in the Great Northern Conference this season. Fourth seed Lake Mills is celebrating its first trip to the State Tournament, advancing via a 3-2 shootout after a 2-2 tie with Lake Country Lutheran in the Madison Country Day Sectional final. The L-Cats finished tied for third place in the Capitol Conference this season.

Those interested in watching the State Tournament live can do so by streaming online on Fox Sports Go or the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) website.

Saturday’s finals will be aired on FS Wisconsin Plus.



Sectional win

On what was a slick surface in Wisconsin Rapids Saturday the Pines offense set the tone early as a goal in the first five minutes gave the Eagles a lead.

Marshfield Columbus however responded just minutes later as they took a midfield turnover and cashed in, floating a shot over the top of Colby Kruse to tie it at 1-1.

“I think that first goal Marshfield scored made them upset,” said Pinski. “I really didn’t have to say much because I knew that was going to spark them. It was a good thing in a way. This group is really resilient and I knew they would rebound from that.”

And rebound they did as the team buckled down on defense, played through contact with ease offensively and put three more on the board to take a 4-1 halftime lead.

That lead grew immediately in the second to 5-1 before a penalty kick from Columbus midway through made it 5-2.

Liam Oas and Sam Gremban each scored for Pines to go with two from Brady Snedden and two more from Bjorn Luebke, whose second goal made it 6-2 with just under 20 minutes remaining. Full-scale subs on both sides ensued with time running down and Zach Maillette and Drew Christenson each added one apiece, which ended the game 8-2.

Afterwards Pinski said he was proud of his team’s effort, especially offensively.

“We showed a lot of creativity on offense and the guys did a good job getting the ball off their feet to each other,” he said. “They made good runs off the ball and opposite that we just stayed strong defensively. I told them if we outwork the other team good things are going to happen. I’ve told them that from day one. They just keep doing it over and over again.”

Pines outshot Columbus 16 to 6. Pinski said things went for the most part as he expected, having few to no scouting reports on the Dons.

“We sort of knew that if we just came out and played our game and kept control we’d have a good opportunity and that’s pretty much how it played out today,” he said. “It always helps a team when you have good ball handing and we have a couple kids in particular who are just really fundamentally solid with the ball. To me, it’s something we always work on, in limiting your touches and getting it off your foot quickly to the next guy. We work on it relentlessly.”