Hess sparks Pirates to sectional final win

Bay Port beat Eau Claire Memorial 4-2 in a sectional final Saturday. (WLUK)

WAUSAU (WLUK) -- Erika Hess has been the go-to player all season for the Bay Port girls soccer team and Saturday, Hess came up big in the biggest moment to date this season.

After receiving a yellow card and spending some time on the sideline, Hess returned to the field and scored twice in the final seven minutes, her second and third goals of the game, to lead the Pirates to a 4-2 win over Eau Claire Memorial in a Division 1 girls soccer sectional final at Wausau West.

"It's the big moment and I know she was feeling a little frustrated, she was getting triple-teamed up top," Bay Port coach Brooke Mraz said. "She came through and when we gave her that moment to take a breather she came back out and the rest is history."

Hess' final two goals put an exclamation point on a game that was tightly contested throughout. Hess scored on a penalty kick in the first half and Anna Gulan also scored as the game was tied 2-all after 45 minutes. In the second half, Bay Port hit either the post or cross bar multiple times, but Hess put an end to the near misses.

First, she scored from about 25 yards on the right side as her shot was tipped by the Old Abes keeper before hitting the back of the net. She then put the game away moments later, as Bay Port is making consecutive appearances in the state tournament for the first time.

"It feels amazing," said Hess, the Fox River Classic Conference offensive player of the year. "I wasn't really expecting to go twice in a row because we never have before for Bay Port, so we knew it was going to be a hard match today also; so it feels great."

Before Hess broke through in the 84th minute, it appeared Bay Port might look back with regret on a game of missed chances. The Pirates controlled play but the game was tied for most of the second half.

Bay Port (22-1), though, never stopped attacking and now it's two wins away from the program's first gold ball.

"They showed a lot of grit and they showed an ability to push through," Mraz said. "They stayed the course against an exceptional opponent in Eau Claire Memorial."

Follow Doug Ritchay on Twitter @dougritchay