Monday, April 7, 2014

JSOnline Girls Soccer Preview

From JSOnline.Com - Girls soccer preview

Memorial star always in attack mode

Cervantes plans to add more to offensive arsenal

By Mark Feldman, Special to the Journal Sentinel
Catholic Memorial's Emily Cervantes (left) scored 50 goals last season in her freshman season. Photo by Gary Porter

Catholic Memorial sophomore Emily Cervantes has a few words of warning for the swarms of defenders preparing to stop her this soccer season: She is coming after you.


"I didn't pressure defenders as much as I could have last year, and I plan on doing that more this year," said Cervantes, who was named the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association player of the year as a freshman in 2013. "I'm ready for more physical battles this year. Actually, those are the things that make this game fun."


Gleefully seeking out contact is the last thing area defenders probably need from Cervantes. She exploded on the soccer scene last season, scoring 50 goals and leading the Crusaders to a 23-0-1 record and their second straight WIAA Division 2 state championship.


Last year Catholic Memorial coach John Burke compared her to former Crusaders and U.S. national team star Leslie Osborne — an equation that rose eyebrows and bred skepticism.


Smirks of overhype melted into realizations — usually from coaches who lost to the Crusaders — that Cervantes truly could be a once-in-a-decade talent.


"She's legit," Whitefish Bay coach Robert Williams said after he watched Cervantes navigate three-quarters of the field and score a game-tying goal last season.


"She plays at such a high level," Waukesha North coach Jeff Worzella said. "She is as effective off the ball and she is on it."


The young forward herself hears the noise but simply chugs it down as fuel.


"I use that as motivation to get better. I just need to show people what I can do on the field," she said. "I put a lot of pressure on myself. I want to be someone who people are proud of, and to be the best teammate I can be."


For his part, Burke is befuddled by anyone still questioning Cervantes' skill.


"People who are underachievers tear down those who are performing instead of spending time getting better," Burke said. "There will always be people who try to diminish what you do. Emily uses detractors as fuel. It's simple: She brings a creativity to the field that is truly special."


Cervantes knows teams will load up with two, three perhaps even four defenders to stop her.

"I think teams will put more people on me," she said. "When that happens, I need to stay positive and get more assists. I can't frustrated."


"I see Emily becoming a leader this season, a player who helps other players take control of the game," Burke said. "Her scoring is obvious, but she also distributes the ball beautifully. Her teammates love that. They have all been on the other end of a great pass from Emily."


Against Classic 8 rival Kettle Moraine last season, the Lasers were determined to shut down Cervantes. Late in the match, surrounded by three defenders, Cervantes uncorked a pitch-wide pass to a wide-open Carina Krausert. She scored for a 1-0 Crusaders win.


"It was the same with Leslie Osborne," said Burke, making the comparison again. "Teams loaded up to stop her and she would have five assists. She loved it."


With Cervantes, the Crusaders appear to have all the pieces in place to win a third straight state championship and a fourth in the last five years. Cervantes, sophomore forward Jo Rolli, junior Nicole Piette andsenior midfielder Cristina From give the Crusaders a dynamic offense.


Senior defender Tori Hodorowski anchors a solid back line, and junior goalkeeper Cassidy Lentz posted 12 shutouts last season, including in both state tournament matches.


Memorial also plays a tough schedule that includes several Division 1 sides, a quality Chicago-area team, and the defending South Carolina state champion on a spring break trip later this month.


"Being undefeated took us by surprise last season," Burke said. "We design our schedule to maybe have some losses and learn how to deal with those losses. Losses can create urgency."


Winning a third title in a row — something that Memorial has never done — doesn't hold much weight with Burke. Instead he takes more pride in the Crusaders' two decades of success: 405 wins and 10 state titles.


"It's the longevity and the consistency. Long-term success is the real test of a program," Burke said. "The players here in the past two decades have put together a breathtaking record."


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