MANITOWOC (WFRV) – Chris Corrao sat across the table from his new athletic director.
The newly-hired head coach of the fledgling Roncalli/Two Rivers boys soccer program had big dreams, and he wasn’t shy about communicating them.
“I want to win a state championship.”
Four years later, that dream is a reality in just the fourth season in Jets program history, reaching the mountaintop with Saturday wins over Medford (3-2 in the semifinals) and Sauk Prairie (2-0 in the championship) to take home an improbable state title in an unprecedented season.
“You know, it’s been something else. I can’t even explain it,” Corrao said. “Less than 40 games and we’re the state champions as a Division 2 soccer program. I’m just in awe.”
The Jets won one game in Corrao’s first season, but through perseverance of players sticking through the program, his best athletes became captains and began permeating a culture of resilience throughout the program.
That was no better embodied than in the state championship game, when the Jets shook off a scoreless first half to net two crucial goals from senior captain Tyler Bonin.
But what came to a peak at Marshfield High School Saturday night, truly began in the dog days of summer.
“Their commitment is just unbelievable,” Corrao said. “These boys, the captains ran offseason practices and they took it upon themselves to create a building block approach, if you will.
“In my time as a coach in 30 years, I’ve never seen so many kids at practice. It just tells you the kind of people we have at Roncalli High School.”
As much as the Jets became a family through the successful moments of the last four years, they also leaned on each other during the tough times.
Corrao lost his father to cancer during the season two years ago, a moment that made him lean on his home family and soccer family a little bit more.
“In the relationships you have with your family and your friends, sometimes you take things for granted,” Corrao said. “In my father’s later years, he had cancer and he had passed very quickly, and the one thing I promised him was that I would take care of our family and I would represent the Corrao name well.
“Being able to look up to the sky when that game was over and tell him that I was with him and thank him for all the blessings he taught me in life, and that was always to do everything you could to the best of your ability, sometimes it’s not going to go your way but you keep fighting and moving forward, and that same kind of mentality came from the players and the kids.”
The Jets united to support a teammate again this weekend, when one player lost his grandfather Friday night just hours before the state tournament matches.
“We got together, we hugged it out and he was very sad,” Corrao said. “Winning that game and hearing that whistle and seeing him let that emotion out, I let the emotion out, the seniors let some emotion out … for all the things that sometimes don’t go your way, this one went our way.”
It went by way of the lakeshore in a promise kept, a dream fulfilled, and a soccer family coming together to support each other.
In a year unlike any other, it was only fitting for Roncalli/Two Rivers to reach the mountaintop after the unlikeliest of journeys.