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The Cedarburg girls soccer team relied on super sophomore Selena Esten’s four goals to create a bit of separation in the crowded top of the North Shore Conference with a 5-1 win over visiting Grafton on May 16.

Cedarburg (10-0-1, 5-0) is now tied with Whitefish Bay (15-1, 5-0) for first place with 10 points. Grafton (9-1-2, 4-1-1) is third with nine.

“We’ve given ourselves a chance,” Esten said. “I’m proud we’re finally connecting with each other. We’re getting in the box and scoring more than we have been.”

Tuesday’s matchup featured the No. 3- and No. 2-ranked teams in Divisions 2 and 3, respectively. Bay holds the top spot in Division 2 and will meet Cedarburg on May 25 at Milwaukee School of Engineering.

Cedarburg junior forward Kassidy Lange got the Bulldogs the hot start they were looking for with a goal at the 8-minute mark off an Alyssa Kreig assist, but Grafton sophomore forward Malayla Sperber tied it 1-1 in the 25th minute with an assist from Hailey Block.

Then Esten provided the difference – four times over.

Esten scored in minutes 29, 40, 58 and 88 in one of her most dominant performances of the season against a top-notch opponent. Only twice this season has Esten been held without a goal.

“I’m overflowing with happiness right now,” Esten said. “The hard work is really paying off.”

Cedarburg head coach Robert Williams looked just about as happy.

“Tonight, man, she was just good,” Williams said. “Smart runs, and she finished. She stayed composed. Sometimes with her, she gets into trouble when she tries too hard. But to score four goals on them, and these were good, quality goals. It was impressive.”

Williams heaped praise on Esten but also singled out the importance of Lange’s first goal.

“It was huge to go up 1-0 on a team this talented,” he said. “Against a team like this, if you let them play with a lead at all, it changes the game completely. It puts momentum on our side to go up like that.”

Whitefish Bay still has to face Grafton, as well, two days before the meeting against Cedarburg. Also in the mix is Homestead at 2-1-3 in conference play, though the Highlanders were shut out on Tuesday by Bay, 5-0. The Highlanders tied Grafton in a scoreless match on April 18, and they have yet to play Cedarburg.

In other words, it’s going to a wild finish in a very strong conference. Tuesday night was the first major test for Cedarburg as it nears tournament time. Esten admitted she was especially revved up for Grafton.

“A couple of my club teammates play for Grafton,” Esten said. “When you play your club teammates like that, the stakes are going to be a little higher. I did think it would be a lot tighter. I was expecting a 1-0, 2-1 game. They’ve got a lot of very good players.”

Cedarburg faces another tough test in Divine Savior Holy Angels at Quad Park on Friday night, followed by matches with Tosa East, Homestead and Bay. Grafton hosts West Bend East on Friday night.

“DSHA will be a battle,” Esten said. “Then we’ve got those three tough ones next week; it’s not getting easier. We’re a little nervous, but I think we can make it work.”

The competitive nature of the power conference is something welcomed by Williams, who came from coaching at Bay.

“It helps a lot, because every night you’ve got to be ready to play,” Williams said. “Every night is a tough game, whether it’s Nicolet, Germantown or Whitefish Bay. But if you want to be a tournament team, and you want to win championships, these are teams you have to play.”

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