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Girls soccer: After winning crown last year, Catholic Memorial one win away from making state again

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WAUKESHA (WITI) -- The players on the Catholic Memorial girls soccer team have been winning since they were in grade school. Over the years, winning has taken a back seat to relationships, family and serving others.

The Waukesha Catholic Memorial girls soccer team usually gets great "net" results. Over the past two decades, John Burke's teams have won 427 games, lost just 47 and tied 31.

The Crusaders have captured nine state championships -- including two straight and three in the last four years.

So what keeps the girls going?

"What keeps me going personally is the team. We all want to go for the state championship. It's such a good thing to strive for and just keep working," Crusaders Junior Nicole Piette said.

After going 22-0-1 while winning the Division II crown last year, the girls have lost just twice so far this season.

"Some of the kids at Catholic Memorial had never lost a game until we lost just recently. So it's good for us. It's not about winning all the games. Sometimes it's about competing with dignity. Sometimes it's about accepting losing with honor," Head Coach John Burke said.

True -- but that doesn't mean these Crusaders aren't ultra-competitive.

Since their last loss, they've outscored their opponents 45-1.

That includes 11-0 and 17-0 victories.

"A lot of teams want to bring down, or they want to beat Catholic Memorial. Because we've been successful over the years, and it just makes us work that much harder to stay at the top," Crusaders Senior Crissi From said.

One of the big reasons Catholic Memorial has stayed at the top is the play of sensational sophomore Emily Cervantes.

Over the past two seasons, she's scored 110 goals -- 60 this season.

Coach Burke calls Cervantes, who's already accepted a full-ride to play at Tennessee the best pure goal scorer in the state -- by far.

A 10th grader who's Wisconsin Player of the Year, and Gatorade Player of the Year can be a problem child -- but not with this group of young ladies.

"We all just love Emily. She's so humble and she's not like a cocky freshman saying 'I'm better than all of you.' I think taking a backseat and letting her get the glory makes me feel good," Crusaders Senior Jessica Hyde said.

"My team, they help me in getting these goals. If I wasn't humble, then they would maybe not like, I don't know, get me the ball as much. I think humbleness is a big part of the game," Cervantes said.

What drives Coach Burke after all these years is seeing his players grow away from the competition. It's even more important than the wins and championships.

"The TOPPS Soccer Program that we do, serving kids with special needs -- that is the most enjoyable part of it all. Just watching my girls ever year just coach those great kids and serve the community so well," Coach Burke said.

John Burke has two families -- the young ladies he coaches and his family at home.

As a sophomore midfielder on the team, Mo Burke is a member of both.

"We're best friends and we always have been for some reason. We just connected early on. We like being around each other. We have a similar sense of humor. We're both very driven," Coach Burke said.

"I think it's great. My dad and I both enjoy the game of soccer a lot. We like to have the opportunity to be around each other and I have him at school there with me because he teaches too. I think we just get along really well together and it's fun," Mo Burke said.

Mo is short for Maureen. The Burkes named their daughter after John's sister, who succumbed to SIDS when she was just one month old.

"The gift to my mom of Maureen, of Mo, has been enormous -- because my mom, after the death of my sister, didn't speak her name for 25 years. I never heard my mom speak the name Maureen. When I asked my mom for permission to name my first daughter Maureen and she said yes, it was such a powerful moment because now she could speak that name again with joy," Coach Burke said.

"I think it's always nice to be connected to your family -- and family is really important to me. If I can pay tribute to her, and play hard and study hard and just do everything with purpose, that's the best I can do," Mo Burke said.

Mo Burke and her Catholic Memorial teammates beat Pewaukee on Thursday night, June 12th to move within one win of making it back to the state tournament.

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