Sports

Yes, it really happened

by Dave Boehler
Beacon Sports Editor

MEREDITH OPIE (right), attempting to make a save in the state tournament last year, returns as goalkeeper for the Sheboygan North soccer team. – Submitted photo

North begins soccer campaign  after state debut last season

Of course Sheboygan North wanted to finally get to state, but did the girls soccer team really think it would make its tournament debut last year?

To answer that question, senior Meredith Opie recalled a team meeting prior to last season.

“One of the freshmen said for one of our goals, ‘let’s go to state,’” Opie said. “Although we all wanted to go to state, we all kind of looked around and we were just thinking, ‘is that really possible?’

“So originally, I didn’t think so, no.”

She changed her mind midway through the season, especially after wins against Bay Port and Green Bay Notre Dame.

“We all kind of thought, ‘wow, we’re a really good team and we play well together,’” Opie said. “I thought it was possible.”

North advanced all the way to the Division 1 state final (it lost, 3-1, to Bay Port), and even coach Tim Eirich says his squad surprised a lot of people.

“I think they realized we had a decent team, but I don’t know if they realized that we were that good,” he said. “It was a dream come true. You dream about it, you work toward it but you understand that a lot of things have to fall in place. …

“Still, there are times that I think about it and think it didn’t happen. I’m so proud the girls got to experience the excitement.”

The question this year is can the Golden Raiders return to state?

Fourteen players are back, including seven starters, but Eirich calls his team talented but young because of just four seniors and five juniors to go with nine sophomores.

“I’m excited about what’s going to happen this year,” the coach said.

Opie begins her third season on varsity and Eirich thinks she is probably the best goalie in the state.

“She’s probably the quickest-footed goalie I’ve had, both boys or girls,” he said. “She’s just gifted that way. She reacts well to the ball. She’s a great leader, a good person, motivated, works hard and has been a joy to have.”

Senior Emma Little, who will play at Illinois-Springfield next season, is one of four girls who made all-Fox River Classic Conference last season.

Like Eirich, she knows her team has the proverbial target on its back because of last season’s success.

“We’re taking everything with a grain of salt,” Little said. “We’re not taking anyone lightly and we’re going into every game like it is the state championship game. We want to play to that level. I think with the idea we have a target on our back, it kind of ups the stakes a little bit and makes us more focused.”

Opponents also targeted North for scheduling purposes this season. The Golden Raiders usually play a tough schedule, but they were sought out by new teams this year.

“It’s funny because now we get calls from very, very good programs that would never call us or even think about playing us,” Eirich said. “And so this year we’re playing DSHA (Divine Savior Holy Angels), Neenah again. All of a sudden, all these perennial programs are calling us because they want to play us. That’s kind of neat, too.”

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