This is what the depth of the opulently talented Whitefish Bay boys soccer team looks like.
Ace senior midfielder Nick Anguil-Andriacchi, a star on the D2 state title team of a year ago, was injured in the 3-0 sectional semifinal win over Slinger on Oct. 27 and tried to start but could not go in the WIAA sectional final against North Shore Conference rival and second-ranked Cedarburg on Oct. 29.
No matter, the Blue Dukes cruised to a 2-0 halftime lead over the Bulldogs.
Then early in the second half, lightning-quick senior forward Zavier Ware suffered a leg injury and had to leave the game. The Blue Dukes continued to dominate play, keeping the ball in the Bulldogs' end almost the entire game.
It all led to an impressive 4-0 victory that propelled the Blue Dukes (20-2-1) into this week's WIAA D2 state tournament battled-tested and ready to defend their 2015 title.
Junior forward Matt Comiskey, who was a corner-kick genie for the Blue Dukes this day, said this team might be even better than last year's powerhouse.
"Last year, we had two players (Evan Conway and Jordan Palmer) who were absolutely unbelievable (on the offensive end), and sometimes it's hard to play effectively as a team with that kind of situation," he said. "This year, we're all in complete unison. All for each other. If you watch tape, you can see it. We just understand each other so well. I'll know where Jackson (junior forward Dryden) will be, and he'll know where I'll be.
"it's a lot prettier and a lot more fun."
For first-year Bay coach Rob Dubinski, whose team will challenge Waukesha West (14-5-2) in a state semifinal at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee at 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, the injuries are still a cause for concern, but as noted, the depth and conditioning helps him breathe easier.
"We're just a very deep team," he said. "We take pride in the fact that we can go one through 25 on the roster. No matter what, we can keep going. Anyone is capable of playing at a high level."
"We've had some really fun training sessions," added junior forward Evan Kortebein. "There were a few pukers, but that helps build our confidence. You have to put in the work if you want to be in intense games like these."
Which will continue at Uihlein. West (14-5-2) was the Classic 8 Conference runner-up and beat Pewaukee, 4-1, for its berth in the state tournament. Bay beat West, 1-0, in a game earlier this season.
The other semifinal features New Richmond (19-4-1) and Elkhorn (18-3-3). The state final will be at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 5, back at Uihlein.
Dubinski hopes to be a bit healthier for the weekend, which will make the task of defending easier.
"I'm very happy with the way we're playing right now," Dubinski said. "You want to be playing your best ball in October. That's a very talented sectional (that West came out of), so the guys know that nothing will be handed to them. We know we have a target on our back as the defending champ and being the top-ranked team (in the state) all fall.
"We'll look to take advantage of our speed because we are one of the fastest teams in the field up with Marquette in terms of possession and playing quickly. If we continue to play like that, we will be a very tough out."
Dukes take over
Cedarburg and coach Pat Sorensen wouldn't argue. The Bulldogs had the first shot on goal in the sectional final at Waukesha North, but from the 20-minute moment on, the game belonged to the Blue Dukes.
Bay prides itself on its execution of set pieces, and this game was no different. A player got taken down in the box in the 26th minute, and Comiskey easily punched home the penalty kick for a 1-0 lead.
It was another set piece that effectively sealed the game, as junior defender Shawn Azcueta took a free kick from about 39 yards out. Kortebein was perfectly positioned in the box and timed his leap perfectly, as the ball skimmed off the top of his head and into the goal for a 2-0 lead at the 33:17 mark of the first half.
"I don't normally get to do a lot of those (free kicks)," Azcueta said, "but I was asked to this time."
Ware's injury early in the second half did not slow Bay, as Comiskey, who took many corner kicks this game, laid a perfect ball into the box in the 58th minute and junior defender Jeremy Haddock banged it home for a 3-0 advantage.
Just over four minutes later, Bay officially closed the deal, as Comiskey again tossed in a perfect corner that junior midfielder Drew Nelson deflected in at the 61:50 mark.
Shortly thereafter, subs took over for the Blue Dukes.
Bay was actually surprised at the ease of victory over Cedarburg, which they beat 2-0 earlier this season and also in last season's state finals.
"We knew we had to bring it all," Kortebein said. "It's always a huge competition with them (the Bulldogs), especially because of the games we've had the last few years with them. Just a great team to test ourselves against. They always bring out our best."
A fast start helped.
"It was good that we were able to open up the game like that early," Dubinski said. "It forced them into an attack mode and got them out of their defense."
Cedarburg was also short-handed for this game, but Sorensen didn't make that an excuse.
"When they get on the lead and they're playing on their front foot, it is difficult," he said. "We just didn't have the firepower to deal with their depth."
Which Bay will look to rely on this weekend at Uihlein.
"We have to bring our 'A' game, bring the emotion and the technique," Kortebein said.