Marquette High School soccer team posing on field after winning 2021 state championship

The same defense that had carried the Marquette Hilltoppers through the playoffs came through one more time in the WIAA Division I boys soccer state championship game on Saturday, Nov. 6, at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.

Sean Dankert scored 11 minutes into the game off an assist by Joey Sikorski for all of the scoring in the Hilltoppers’ 1-0 victory over Hudson. The win left Marquette, currently ranked No. 3 in the nation by the United Soccer Coach Poll, with a mark of 23-1-1 for the season.

In five previous postseason games, the Hilltoppers had outscored their opponents 23-0. The last goal they gave up in 2021 came in a national tournament in Iowa to St. Thomas Aquinas (Kansas). After that, they went eight games (approximately 640 minutes) without being scored upon.

The title continued the Marquette dynasty, which has won a record 16 WIAA titles (all since 2000) and 30 state titles combined (they won 14 in the now-defunct WISAA).

“Each year we set goals for the team at the beginning of the year to achieve throughout the season to go along with our ultimate goal of winning a state championship,” said Marquette coach Steve Lawrence, who has guided Marquette to 11 of the titles (all since 2008). “Creating goals throughout the season has helped keep focus on winning the state championship and gives the guys targets throughout the season to try (to) achieve. Also, I think we still had a couple guys on the team from two years ago when we lost in the playoffs.  I think that was still on their minds and they used (it) to keep their hunger going this year.”

The only blemishes on the Hilltoppers’ record this season were a 2-1 loss to Illinois state finalist Palatine Fremd, and an early 1-1 with Chaminade (Missouri) at an event in Peoria, Illinois.

“We try to play as tough of a schedule as possible,” Lawrence said. “There are no easy games, and I really feel that helps keep the boys focus and requires them to be at their best every time they step on the field because they know if they aren’t the other team could beat them.”

Lawrence said the team’s resiliency stood out to him the most this season. The Hilltoppers had made the finals of the Burlington, Iowa, Tournament of Champions National Event a few times in the past but had never won it. In the championship this year, Marquette fell behind 2-1 with about 20 minutes left after taking a 1-0 lead in the first half. Thirty seconds after they fell behind, they tied the game and ended up winning in overtime on a goal by Miguel Gonzalez, assisted by Valentin Sandoval.

“I still get chills thinking about it,” Lawrence said. “The guys showed their toughness and resiliency that defined this group all year, and we won the tournament for the first time as well.”

In the championship game, the Hilltoppers had the wind at their backs in the first half and then had to defend their one-goal margin in the second half while going against the wind.

Hudson had a shot in the second half that went right over the crossbar. With 10 seconds left in the game, Hudson had a corner kick opportunity, but it was kicked well past the goal and time expired.

“I thought our defense did a good job in the second half going into the wind preventing Hudson from getting any clean/good looks on goal,” Lawrence said.

Marquette had six players named to the Greater Metro Conference all-conference team: seniors Sam Magner, Gonzalez, Sandoval and Nick Magner, along with juniors CJ Deslongchamps (goalkeeper) and Owen Marhsall.

The championship was one of two Marquette won as a school during the fall sports season in 2021.