Cristo Rey Jesuit claimed the school’s first state championship in any sport with a 2-0 victory over Sheboygan Christian/Lutheran on Nov. 5 in the WIAA Division 4 state soccer tournament. (Submitted photo)
What took years to build took just 38 seconds to seal.
Cristo Rey Jesuit scored back-to-back goals in the 30th minute of the WIAA Division 4 boys soccer state championship match Saturday, Nov. 5, and made them hold up the rest of the way for a 2-0 victory over Sheboygan Christian/Lutheran.
It was the first state championship for Cristo Rey — in existence since 2015 — in any sport.
The enthusiasm for the Trailblazers’ first foray onto the statewide stage was palpable throughout the school and the neighboring southside community. The entire school was allowed to attend the semifinal game — a 3-1 victory the day before over La Crosse Aquinas.
“The school really did a good job to get behind it and make it very meaningful, not just for the players but for the whole school,” sad Cristo Rey coach Rich Dorn, completing his third season. “Honestly, when it’s your first rodeo, you’re not quite sure how you deal with this. For the donors to step up and the organizational magnitude of mobilizing an entire school, getting tickets for them and getting them to the game (was great). It just generated a lot of enthusiasm and excitement for everybody. That was really quite cool.”
Jonathan Monreal scored his team-high 21st goal of the season on a penalty kick to get the Trailblazers on the board with 29:05 elapsed in the championship match. At the 29:43 mark, Nathan Monreal added his ninth goal of the season from outside the 18-yard box to give CRJ what turned out to be an insurmountable advantage.
“To get that second one gives you some breathing room,” Dorn said. “The thing for us was to make sure we still connected passes (as the game went on). When you’re down 2-0, it adds to the tension.”
Sheboygan Christian/Lutheran had six shots total in the game, but Cristo Rey goalkeeper Brayan Valdivieso didn’t officially record a save as none of them were on goal.
Cristo Rey took 10 shots total in the match, including eight in the first half with a strong, steady wind at their backs.
In the semifinals, the match was halted for more than an hour just five minutes into play for a lightning/weather delay. Those first few minutes of play gave Dorn and his players a glimpse of what Aquinas’ strategy was going to be, allowing them to prepare for how they would attack after the delay.
Ten minutes after play resumed, Cristo Rey took the lead when Victor Sandoval scored his 14th goal of the season at the 15:31 mark. Elvis Esparza assisted on Sandoval’s goal, which came from inside the box on a shot to the far post.
After Aquinas tied the match in the 22nd minute, the Trailblazers took the lead for good when Jonathan Monreal scored on a long-distance blast at the 29:55 mark. Sandoval added his second goal of the game and some valuable insurance for the Trailblazers when he scored off a rebound with 57:02 elapsed.
For the game, the Trailblazers outshot Aquinas by a staggering 28-6.
“We were relentless offensively, and, to be candid, there was a semblance of (being) relentless defensively,” Dorn said.
The Trailblazers finished the season 23-1-1; the loss came to perennial state powerhouse Whitefish Bay, which lost in the Division 2 championship game the same day, and the tie came against St. Thomas More.
Dorn said the seeds for the championship were planted long before the school ever came into existence, noting the top players on his team started their soccer journeys as part of elite club teams as youngsters.
“The ones that are really good have been playing soccer at a competitive level and sustained that effort in some club-type seasons,” Dorn said. “We had enough of those types of players who were committed and competitive. The leaders … are the ones that frankly set a standard of their own.”