CMH on a winning crusade
Memorial has won 29 straight games
WAUKESHA – John Burke still stands behind his preseason comments.
The Catholic Memorial High School girls soccer coach believes his team will lose this year – but this team may not know how to lose.
The Crusaders broke the state record for most consecutive victories April 26 against Muskego and the Crusaders enter tonight’s game at Waukesha West with 29 straight. Ashland held the previous record with 25 straight victories spanning 2009 and 2010.
“We haven’t lost a game since May of 2012, but the first time we do lose a game it will give us a greater since of urgency,” Burke said. “Really, the only goal we have each year is to win a state title. If we focused on other things then we wouldn’t have nine state titles. These girls have won more titles in the history of this state. If we win our seventh WIAA title, that will tie Whitefish Bay for the most WIAA titles. The remarkable thing about that is we didn’t enter the WIAA until 2001.”
Don’t let Burke’s words fool you, he’s not trying to lose. He wants to keep winning, but soccer can be a funny game. The best team on the pitch doesn’t always win, because scoring goals in soccer can be difficult – or a team with one shot can still win a 1-0 decision.
“It’s hard to have it ongoing every game you play, so we will probably have a game we won’t play too well this year,” senior Tori Hodorowski said. “It’s a long game, and if we don’t play a full 80 minutes we can end up losing. Hopefully, it’s just not at the end of the year for state.”
Burke is well aware of the statistics and streaks for his teams. The players never followed it. Burke told them about the streak just a few games before the team broke it. For some teams, that would have made them play tight.
“Coach really prepares us for each game, so obviously we wanted to get the record. But it didn’t add any more pressure,” junior Nicole Piette said. “It’s exciting for us that we know we are going to get the best out of every team that we are going to play.”
With CMH’s schedule, a loss wouldn’t be unthinkable. The Classic 8 Conference is tremendously difficult with Waukesha West also being a state qualifier last year. The Crusaders also played South Carolina’s state champion – Hilton Head Island – this season and beat them 2-0 at a tournament in Hilton Head.
“I’m not interested in losing and I’ve had 45 nights (his total losses) in 20 years where I haven’t slept, so believe me, I do not want to lose a game,” Burke said. “We have the best record in the Classic 8 over the last four years, but during those four years we’ve lost a few games. There’s tough games ahead. Last year we beat Waukesha West 5-1. I’m sure they remember that and they will come out even greater.”
A big part of the streak is CMH has sophomore Emily Cervantes, the state Player of the Year as a freshman. Arrowhead put two players on Cervantes all game, and she was still able to score two goals in a 3-2 victory. That was the Crusaders’ closest game of the season and the only time a team scored more than one goal against CMH.
Cervantes has added motivation for this conference season. Despite being the state Player of the year, the Classic 8 coaches didn’t vote her Player of the Year in the conference.
“If I were an opposing coach, I would try to avoid lighting a fire under her,” Burke said.
Cervantes does lead the team in points with 32 goals and 15 assists. But CMH isn’t just one player. Sophomore Jo Rolli has 15 goals and 15 assists, freshman Lauren Lehsten has eight goals and six assists and Piette has seven goals and three assists.
Burke said this year’s team may not be the most talented team he’s had, but the team does have the best chemistry despite a young roster that has just three seniors along with five freshmen.
“We all get along real well,” said Hodorowski, a co-captain. “I don’t even know that I am playing with underclassmen because we are so close. We say hi in the hallway and get along real well. On the field, it carries over.”
If CMH does lose, it will be a learning experience and added motivation to defend last year’s WIAA Division 2 state title.
“Coach Burke always said you get good opportunities out of winning, but you there’s good stuff that comes out of losing,” Cervantes said. “Like dealing with your emotions, because it’s hard the first time you lose. And then supporting your team is a big thing after a loss.”
There’s still one more record the Crusaders can chase down, but it’s their own. From 1995 to 97, CMH didn’t lose for 56 straight matches. The current unbeaten streak is at 44.
“What’s really extraordinary is during the unbeaten streak, it includes only one tie,” Burke said.
Top - Catholic Memorial senior Cristina From has helped the Crusaders win 29 straight games spanning last season and this season. Charles Auer/Freeman Staff
Bottom - Catholic Memorial’s Nicole Piette, right, works against a Pius player during a 2013 game. Freeman file photo