When Ali Graham was a freshman, she was playing in a state final. She scored a goal in the semifinals to help Omaha Skutt advance.
On Monday night, the SkyHawk senior’s career could come full circle.
Graham and senior teammate Laura Brown have been a part of three state championship teams already. A win for top-ranked Skutt against No. 2 Gretna in the 5 p.m. girls Class B title game at Morrison Stadium would put the SkyHawks in elite company.
Four consecutive state titles has been accomplished by one soccer program — Omaha Marian, which won six straight — and three graduating classes (Marian’s 2001, 2002 and 2003 classes).
“I think they’ll look back on it and really realize it was something special,” Skutt coach John Carlson said.
A third straight title game win over Gretna won’t come easy. The Dragons pushed Skutt to overtime in last year’s championship.
Even Carlson admitted that a 3-0 win over Gretna in the regular season didn’t feel like a three-goal win.
But should the SkyHawks (17-1) come out on top Monday night, it would add to a Class B record for consecutive titles and put them two behind Marian’s record run.
Of Skutt’s seven seniors, Graham and Brown are the only two with three gold medals. Senior Hannah Ehresman would be a three-time champion.
The other seniors are a group that has Carlson smiling when he talks about them.
“They’ve done it the old-fashioned way,” Carlson said. “They played JV for three years. They stuck with it. It would be great to see those girls get a gold medal, to get to see their perseverance pay off.
“It’s been a real refreshing year this year for me. In this day and age, when freshmen come in and play right away and what-not, it’s been cool to see these girls not give up.”
Even Gretna coach George Behney said he can appreciate the fruits of that kind of labor.
“I have so much admiration for individuals that pick themselves up off the mat and go at it again,” he said. “It’s definitely an impressive feat.”
But make no mistake, Behney and the Dragons (17-1) will be doing everything in their power to make sure it doesn’t happen.
That starts, he said, with knowing where Skutt standout Liz Bartels is at all times.
“She just attracts so much attention,” Behney said. “But they’ve got other weapons on their team that will hurt you as well.”
In their loss this season, Behney said he thought the Dragons let the mental side play too much of a factor.
“I thought we walked into that match and thought we were beat somewhat before we even stepped on the pitch,” Behney said. “Having played this team so many times and not walked away with a result, it can be tough on the psyche.”
A win would give Gretna its second state title.
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