Brook­field Cen­tral led by se­niors

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - - Sports - Mark Ste­wart

You usu­ally don’t have a team that is this good and goes this far with­out a strong foun­da­tion.

Brook­field Cen­tral coach Dan Makal found his three years ago.

Then a sec­ond-year coach, Makal brought four fresh­men to the var­sity. Three started. The other would have were it not for an in­jury. All four were im­pact per­form­ers when the team won the Division 1 state ti­tle a year ago. This year they’ve set the tone for a team that many be­lieve is the best in the state re­gard­less of division.

But be­yond the cham­pi­onships they may help bring to the school, Jenny Cape, Sarah Knopp, Emma Staszkiewicz and Brandi Thom­sen – along with fel­low se­niors Me­gan Stritesky and Nora Barker – have left a huge im­pres­sion when it has come to build­ing the pro­gram’s iden­tity un­der Makal. Stritesky has been on var­sity for three years and Barker for two.

They'll lead Cen­tral (16-1-1) into the Division 2 state semi­fi­nals against River Falls (16-2-2) at 11 a.m. Thurs­day.

“They un­der­stand the con­sis­tency. They un­der­stand the level of train­ing that we ask them to do and all the fit­ness things that go on and they keep ask­ing to do more,” he said.

“When you have kids who want to see how much more they can do, how much more time they can bond and make the whole team and pro­gram bet­ter, you’ve got re­ally good kids. They’re all the ones that put the team first and don’t worry about the in­di­vid­ual things.”

Here are Cen­tral’s four, four-year won­ders.

Jenny Cape, the come­back kid

The Iowa re­cruit is part goal scorer, part play­maker. The 5-foot-9 mid­fielder ar­rives at state with 13 goals and 16 as­sists for 42 points.

Ver­sa­til­ity and the abil­ity to ad­just, how­ever, are her strengths. Some of that might come nat­u­rally. When she came to high school she’d been used to play­ing a po­si­tion that wasn't part of the for­ma­tion Cen­tral uses. And now, she is some­times called upon to more from her nor­mal spot in the mid­field in a for­ma­tion changes and does so with­out is­sue.

In the post­sea­son, she has five goals and three as­sists. In the sec­tional semi­fi­nal, her as­sist to Stask­iewicz in the 35th minute proved to be the only goal the team needed in a 3-0 vic­tory over West De Pere.

She is also prob­a­bly the team's most in­spi­ra­tional player given her re­cov­ery from aplas­tic ane­mia last year. She capped that come­back by scor­ing twice in Cen­tral’s 3-0 vic­tory over Bay Port in the state cham­pi­onship game.

“If you don’t like Jenny there is prob­a­bly some­thing wrong with you,” Makal said. “Jen is prob­a­bly one of the most lik­able peo­ple. She doesn’t rub any­one the wrong way.”

Sarah Knopp, the ta­ble setter

Cape plays on one side of field. Knopp is on the other. Good friends and neigh­bors, they some­times ride a tan­dem bike to prac­tice.

“It’s kind of like what one isn’t the other picks up,” Makal said.

In­di­vid­u­ally Knopp sets up her team­mates more than any­one. She leads the team in as­sists, can ef­fec­tively use her left or right foot and does a great job of plac­ing the ball on the team’s set pieces.

Her ac­cu­racy in that re­gard helped Cen­tral beat White­fish Bay in the sec­tional fi­nal Satur­day. Her as­sist to Thom­sen in the box from about 40 yards out evened the score in the 62nd minute and her pass into the box to Stask­iewicz led to the win­ning goal.

“Sarah can dis­trib­ute the ball so well. She’s our team as­sist leader right now and she was last year, too,” Makal said. “Sarah can break you both ways (left or right).”

Emma Staszkiewicz, the so­cial but­ter­fly

Staszkiewicz’s big per­son­al­ity fits her game.

“Emma’s speed is unreal,” Makal said. “She’s an ab­so­lute bull. She’ll mus­cle peo­ple up and all of sud­den she’ll run and she’s 10 yards be­yond some­body, which his hard to do with the ball.”

Staszkiewicz is a fin­isher. She leads the Lancers in scor­ing with 27 goals and five as­sists. In fact, she is the school’s all-time lead­ing goal scorer, a mile­stone she reached as a ju­nior.

Not only does Staszkiewicz fin­ish plays, but she can make some­thing out of noth­ing, giv­ing the team a goal and a spark when things haven’t started to click yet.

For her win­ning goal against White­fish Bay, she put a wicked spin on the ball that made it im­pos­si­ble for the de­fender and goal­keeper to stop.

Off the field Makal said she’s all Brook­field Cen­tral all the time.

“If I had to jok­ingly say what Emma is to the pro­gram, Emma is the best gath­erer of so­cial me­dia and just be­ing so­cial," he said. "Ev­ery­body knows Emma in the school. She’s a huge per­son­al­ity . ... When she’s on the field, she’s a dif­fer­ence maker. Some­times I feel like you get to play with three for­wards and then Emma.”

Brandi Thom­sen, leader by ex­am­ple

It’s no ac­ci­dent that Thom­sen earned the area player of the year award at the Jour­nal Sen­tinel High School Sports Awards last month. She paid her dues on the field and in the weight room.

“She’s al­ways pay­ing at­ten­tion to what needs to be done,” Makal said. “If every­one needs to get up and get go­ing and we’re go­ing to start prac­tice, she’s the one that gets out there. One of our rules is if you’re not early, you’re late. She’s out there early mak­ing sure every­one is get­ting up and go­ing.”

The Cincin­nati re­cruit comes into the state tour­na­ment with 15 goals and nine as­sists. Listed as 5-10, she uses her size in the box. That was ap­par­ent in the sec­tional fi­nal when she carved out space for her­self on Knopp’s pass and tied the game.

That was a huge play in a show­down be­tween the state’s top-two ranked teams. In the scheme of the sea­son, how­ever, Thomen has played a more sub­tle but equally im­por­tant role.

“She’s been the one steady­ing the ship the whole time,” Makal said. “If we ask her to play one po­si­tion, she’ll do that. Ask her to make a change, she’ll do that. She un­der­stands that the roles changes at times, but she still has to be her­self. If it’s good for the team. That is what she’s go­ing to do.”


Brook­field Cen­tral girls soc­cer play­ers pile on top of team­mate Jenny Cape (bot­tom right) af­ter their 2017 WIAA Division 1 state cham­pi­onship vic­tory over Bay Port. Cape scored two goals in the 3-0 vic­tory.


Brook­field Cen­tral se­nior Brandi Thom­sen re­ceives a pass dur­ing a match at Ar­row­head in May.

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