That chip on the shoulder the Homestead girls soccer team has been carrying around all season has served it well.

It's dared one opponent after another to knock it off, only the Highlanders have stood their ground time and again, surviving one challenge after another.

And in a heavyweight fight of vastly entertaining proportions this afternoon at Uihlein Soccer Complex in Milwaukee, the underdog Highlanders (18-5-1) wobbled but did not fall against top-ranked in state Waukesha West (20-2-2), knocking the Wolverines off in a thrilling, 2-1 WIAA State D2 semifinal.

The chip remains on the shoulder for one more day.

'Obviously with so many seniors on the team (13), we didn't want them to go home without a win,' said junior midfielder Jenna Dorf who scored what proved to be the winning goal at the 61:53 mark off a free kick from senior defender Lauren Padgett.

Dorf hit a one-hop shot from 20 yards out from the left side that bounced past stunned Wolverines' keeper Abbie Lorenz for the lead.

It was an audacious play that caught West napping and exemplified the 'never say die' attitude the Highlanders have had all season.

'Sometimes its nice being the underdog, the team with something to prove,' added Dorf. 'You've got to be in the moment and take advantage of those opportunities when you can.'

The win improved Homestead to 18-5-1 and advanced the Highlanders to the WIAA State D2 final at 3 p.m. Saturday, June 18 against defending champion Oregon (17-3-4), which was a 2-0 winner over Pulaski in the other semifinal.

This is the first year in D2 for the Highlanders, who lost in a D1 sectional final last season to Menomonee Falls. and they have worn that chip of frustration on their shoulder everyday since.

This is their first berth in the state finals since they lost to Verona in the D1 championship game in 2010, their last time to state. They won their third and last WIAA state title in 2007 in an overtime thriller over DePere.

Coach Rich Dorn has been there for all of that, and the meaning of what happened on Friday, and what may happen on Saturday is not lost on him.

'In games like this, you're going to give your hits and your going to take your hits,' he said. 'There was an incredible effort put forth by by both teams today.

'And West, as far as I'm concerned is the best team in the state. But this is just a snapshot. You have your regular season, your conference play and then the tournament. Each is different.

'We were better today. I don't know about nine times out of 10, but we were better today.'

West coach David Zindler, who goes way back with Dorn, and calls him a friend, qualified that assertion, saying the Highlanders were 'one play better' than the Wolverines' this day.

'But that's why we tell our kids that though we play for 90 minutes, the game is lost in seconds,' he said. 'We just lost concentration on that play (the free kick) and that  was the difference in the game.'

One could hardly have blamed the Wolverines for being confident. Though they trailed much of the second half, they never felt they were out of the game.

Even after Homestead struck first.

After a scoreless first half Highlanders senior forward Alex Lutz took a clearing pass from senior midfielder Allie Haddad and sprang clear of two West defenders.

She banged the shot home easily from about 20 yards out for a 1-0 lead just 1:26 into the second half.

But the Wolverines have the state's Gatorade Player of the Year in 40-plus goal scorer Dani Rhodes, who 10 minutes later took the ball in from 40 yards out, displaying dazzling footwork and beating two Highlander defenders from about 10 yards out to the far right post to tie the score.

'She's relentless, highly skilled and very smart,' said Dorn of Rhodes. 'She's so smart, it's almost unfair.'

But Zindler said the Wolverines have had a hard time defending set pieces all season, and so just five minutes after Rhodes tied the score, the Highlanders had a free kick from about 40 yards out on the left side.

Padgett takes it from there.

'We've done tons of free kicks (this season) and I usually take the ones from that far out,' she said. 'Jenna (Dorf) has been phenomenal with those balls in practice so I knew just where to put it. It was magic!'

'I saw it coming, it was a perfect ball,' said Dorf. 'I had so much time.'

Zindler said the Highlanders timed the referee's re-start whistle perfectly and caught the Wolverines while they were still forming up defensively.

The Highlanders were up 2-1, but the problem was, they had to defend for another 28 minutes against Rhodes and her equally dangerous frontline mate Nat Yass.

West pushed and pushed and pushed, but the Highlanders would not yield. Senior keeper Kelli Ausman played a stout goal and got plenty of help.

Padgett, who had primary defensive responsibility for Rhodes, said it was teamwork that got the job done.

'It was all about the double-team and then everyone shifting when needed,' said Padgett. '...The rest of the defense did a great job.'

Zindler said the Wolverines have been down before and so did not panic.

'It's been there, done that,' he said. 'We thought we'd snatch victory from the jaws of defeat again, but it was June 17 and 80 degrees out and we just didn't quite have the legs for it.

'We were one play away.'

And now the Highlanders are one game from their fourth state title.

Dorn, who accepted a heartfelt congratulations from Zindler while addressing the team after the game, said the Highlanders are relishing the moment.

'We've been underdogs since the time we started North Shore play,' he said. 'We weren't the favorite and that has fed our fire.

'...The funny thing was, three weeks into the season, we didn't even know we were were in D2. I even voted on our D1 (sectional) bracket.

'We're an eye of the needle (away from being D1) but we're glad we're in D2.

'...This is just a very special moment for Homestead.'