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Prep girls soccer preview: Oregon leads area teams into new season after last year’s state runner-up finish in Division 2

April 4, 2019

2019 PREP GIRLS SOCCER PREVIEW

Three things to watch

Badger South Conference battle: Nelson Brownell begins his first season as head coach at Oregon after serving as an assistant to longtime coach Julie Grutzner, who stepped down after guiding the Panthers to a WIAA Division 2 state runner-up finish last year. “I believe we have the potential to be a top team in the state,” Brownell said. “It is going to take us coming to practice and games ready to play everyone’s best game.” Oregon’s primary challengers in the Badger South Conference are anticipated to be Madison Edgewood, Watertown, Milton and Monona Grove, which is led by senior defender Jensen Ruesch and senior goalkeeper Sophia Wendt, an NCAA Division I Southeastern Louisiana University commit.

Sectional switch: Waunakee, which dropped a 1-0 decision to Oregon in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final last year, has moved into Division 1 this season. The Warriors will be in a 16-team sectional that includes defending sectional champion Wales Kettle Moraine, sectional runner-up Janesville Craig, Middleton, Sun Prairie and Verona. “I believe our program needs to continue to be consistent with our work ethic,” said Ben Voss, in his second season coaching the Waunakee girls after coaching the boys and girls programs at Madison Memorial. “Our staff loves these kids and (is) thankful to have kids that want to listen, learn, compete and have fun.”

Big Eight Conference race: Reigning conference champion Middleton is expected to face stern opposition in league matches from Janesville Craig, Sun Prairie, Verona, Madison Memorial and Madison West. “The top teams in our conference should be Middleton and Janesville Craig,” Beloit Memorial/Beloit Turner coach Brian Denu said. “Both have tons of talent coming back.”

Teams to watch

Oregon: The Panthers reached the Division 2 state title game last season. Oregon defeated New Berlin Eisenhower 2-0 in the semifinal, before dropping a 2-0 decision to Brookfield Central in the final. Oregon, under first-year coach Nelson Brownell, returns another strong team that claimed its seventh consecutive Badger South title last year – sharing the crown with Madison Edgewood. Oregon returns 19 letterwinners, including starters McKee, Avary Fanning, Melia Moyer, Brooklynn Kane, Katie Eisele, Hanna Rohrer, Emma Halverson and Cassie Kluck, Brownell said. Oregon began the season ranked second in Division 2 in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association poll and earned a 6-0 victory over Sun Prairie on Tuesday.

Waunakee: The Warriors are expected to challenge defending Badger North champion Mount Horeb for the league title. Waunakee is led by senior midfielder Maddie Farnsworth, a Butler University commit and also a team captain, senior forward Sarah McLaughlin and junior forward/midfielder Isabelle Barmore, an Iowa State recruit. Coach Ben Voss also will count on the contributions of midfielder Anne Dotzler and goalkeeper Alyssa Kuhn.

Sun Prairie: The Cardinals, ranked third in Division 1 and fourth overall for all divisions, hope to challenge for the Big Eight crown this year. Seniors Alexis Baker and Ella Koenig lead Sun Prairie, guided by coach Matt Cleveland. The Cardinals opened with a 2-1 victory over Milwaukee Divine Savior Holy Angels, with Baker scoring both goals, then tied Monona Grove, before losing to Oregon.

Middleton: The Cardinals won the Big Eight crown and advanced to a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal, falling to Janesville Craig. Middleton, ranked No. 10 in Division 1, is expected to contend for the league title again this season. Junior midfielder Tyler Wilson, sophomore forward Victoria Bunz and seniors Emily Reislager, Danielle Martin and Caitlynn Owens, who is a UW-Milwaukee commit, are expected to lead the way for coach Mary Duffy.

Janesville Craig: Big Eight coach of the year Bill McCabe, forward Hallie King and defender Hannah Dunlavy led the up-and-coming Cougars to a sectional final appearance last season, falling to Kettle Moraine in double overtime. Craig should be in the mix for the conference crown this season. Dunlavy, a junior, anchors the back line. King scored four goals in Craig’s 7-0 opening victory over Janesville Parker and junior midfielder Brooke Parkhurst had two goals in a 3-1 victory over Neenah.

Madison Edgewood: The Crusaders shared the Badger South title with Oregon last season and advanced to a WIAA Division 3 sectional final, falling to Belleville/New Glarus 1-0. Edgewood looks to be strong again, led by senior defender Madeline Cruz and sisters Jordy Rothwell, a senior who’s committed to Creighton, and Hailey Rothwell, a sophomore forward. The Crusaders, who opened with a 2-0 victory over Belleville/New Glarus on two goals by Ella Henley, were ranked third in Division 3 this week.

Belleville/New Glarus: The defending Capitol Conference champion reached the Division 3 state tournament semifinals last year, falling to eventual state champion Green Bay Notre Dame. Conference player of the year Aimee Sies graduated but senior Sydney Gentilli and junior Ellie Gentilli return, as does Rachael Heittola, a 6-foot-2 senior goalkeeper and Bemidji State University commit for basketball, who has been a mainstay in net for Sugar River, ranked fifth in Division 3.

Mount Horeb: Coach Mark Newman begins his 20th season for the defending Badger North champion Vikings. Sydney King, last year’s All-Area player of the year, and midfielder Liza Spellman have graduated, but 16 letterwinners return. Mount Horeb has a wealth of experience, bringing back starters Grace Droessler, Sydney Flaherty, Kenzie Coulthard, Kaylee Doebert, Abby Drexler, Maggie Conway (eight goals, 11 assists last year), Sierra Berg (four goals, six assists), Makyla Severson (11 goals, four assists) and Olivia Yanna (five goals, six assists). Droessler, a senior goalkeeper (0.61 goals against), was injured in a regional final victory last season, and the Vikings were edged by Belleville/New Glarus 3-2 in the subsequent sectional semifinal.

McFarland: The defending Rock Valley Conference champion Spartans, led by young talent, had a strong showing last year, defeating Lodi 3-2 in a Division 3 regional final before dropping a 1-0 result to Edgewood in a sectional semifinal. The Spartans, led by coach T.J. DiPrizio, are expected to be led by senior forward Alexa Hettiger, sophomore goalkeeper Katie Hildebrandt and freshman midfielder Greta Blau, who scored twice in a 3-0 victory over DeForest on Tuesday.

Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld: The Vanguards was ranked fifth in Division 4 this week. It will be interesting to see how Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld performs this season after advancing to the Division 4 state tournament for the first time last year; Karlee Adler’s goal on a free kick gave Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld a 1-0 victory over Hartland Lake Country Lutheran/University Lake School in a sectional final. Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld was edged by Cedar Grove-Belgium in the state semifinal.

Athletes to watch

Tyler Wilson, jr., midfielder, Middleton: Wilson was a second-team all-state selection by the coaches, a first-team all-Big Eight performer and a first-team choice on the Wisconsin State Journal/WisconsinPrepZone.com All-Area team last season. She was a top goal scorer and point-getter for Middleton, which won the Big Eight.

Alexis Baker, sr., forward, Sun Prairie: Baker, a UW-Parkside commit, will lead the Cardinals in the competitive Big Eight. She earned honorable-mention all-state recognition, was a first-team all-Big Eight choice and a second-team All-Area pick.

Grace Droessler, sr., goalkeeper, Mount Horeb: Droessler, a Loyola (Illinois) University commit, was an honorable-mention all-state selection, a first-team Badger North choice and a first-team All-Area pick.

Madeline Cruz, sr., defender, Madison Edgewood: Cruz, a University of Wisconsin commit, is a leader of the Crusaders’ defense. She was an honorable-mention all-state pick, a first-team Badger South selection and a first-team All-Area choice in 2018.

Maddie Farnsworth, sr., midfielder, Waunakee: Butler University commit Farnsworth earned honorable-mention recognition on the all-state team, first-team all-conference honors in the Badger North and first-team All-Area plaudits.

Hailey Rothwell, soph., forward, Madison Edgewood: Rothwell led the Badger South in scoring in 2018. She was all-state honorable mention last year, as well as a unanimous first-team all-conference in the Badger South and a first-team pick on the All-Area team.

Sydney McKee, sr., defender, Oregon: The 6-foot McKee returns to lead the stingy Oregon defense. She was a first-team All-Area selection and a second-team Badger South choice last year.

Hallie King, jr., forward, Janesville Craig: King was an honorable-mention all-state selection, a first-team all-Big Eight performer and a first-team All-Area pick.

Avary Fanning, jr., forward, Oregon: The Panthers’ top scorer returns after being a first-team Badger South pick and a second-team All-Area choice.

Rachael Heittola, sr., goalkeeper, Belleville/New Glarus: Heittola is the last line of defense for reigning Capitol Conference champion Belleville/New Glarus, which advanced to the Division 3 state tournament. She was a first-team all-conference pick and second-team All-Area selection.

Key dates

WIAA regional play is May 28 and June 1.

WIAA sectional play is June 6 and June 8.

The WIAA state tournament is June 13-15 at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee.

CONFERENCE OUTLOOKS

(Based primarily on information provided by coaches)

BIG EIGHT CONFERENCE

Middleton is the defending champion. Top challengers are expected to be Janesville Craig, Sun Prairie, Verona, Madison Memorial and Madison West.

Verona will seek to replace the graduated Chandler Bainbridge, a defender who was the Big Eight player of the year last year. Among players expected to lead the way are junior Hanna Steiner, a second-team all-conference midfielder last season; juniors Ani Quade and Olivia Rawson, honorable-mention forwards; and sophomore Kirsten Poppen, an honorable-mention defender.

Coach Catherine Patton, in her second season, directs Madison Memorial, which has 13 letterwinners returning. “We hope to continue to improve and compete with the best teams in our conference this year, like we did last year,” said Patton, whose team finished in the middle of the pack last year in conference action.

Beloit Memorial/Beloit Turner coach Brian Denu begins his 10th season with a record number of players in the program (72), including 48 freshmen and sophomores. He believes Beloit Memorial/Turner will eventually make improvement with those young players, but a lack of experience could cause struggles this season. “It is a tough conference to compete in with younger, smaller players,” Denu said. Fourteen letterwinners return. Top returning players include senior Alyssa Jimenez (23 goals, 10 assists) and senior defender Amber Wald. “Alyssa is one of the better players in the conference and is tough to handle with one defender,” Denu said. “Very craft and light on her feet, (and) has a great shot. … Amber will be a rock in the back, as usual.” Freshmen Marieli Perez, Janessa Gama and Megan Castallanos and sophomores Leslie Holguin, Brinnley Wilson and Melissa Carrillo should contribute.

BADGER SOUTH CONFERENCE

Oregon, after a state runner-up finish in Division 2, seems primed to bid for the conference crown again this year after sharing top honors with Edgewood in 2018. “Oregon is the state powerhouse, returning several key players,” Monona Grove coach Natasha Lippitt said. “(Oregon is) historically the team to beat in our conference.”

Monona Grove returns senior goalkeeper Sophia Wendt (Southeastern Louisiana commit) and first-team all-conference defender Jensen Ruesch. Also expected to lead are senior midfielder Gabrielle Arnold, junior defenders Hailey Munz and Madeline Davis-Troller, junior midfielder Maelia Dziedzic and junior forward Sequoia Cruz.

Watertown should be among the teams challenging for a top conference finish. Eleven letterwinners return for coach Julie Allweil. Returning starters include seniors Bailey Coughlin and Celia Hickey; juniors Alayna Clark, Madyson Sloan, Anna Schroeder and Danielle Weissenrieder; and sophomores Aubrey Schmutzler, Autumn Meyers and Sydney Linskens.

Monroe coach Kyle Kasten’s team will be led on the attack by junior forward Alexa Bader (13 goals, four assists). Sophomores Anika Einbeck and Zoee Pond and senior Margarita Sarmiento bring experience to the midfield, while senior captain Becky Thoman can play midfield or forward. Defenders include sophomores Maddison Markham and Kourtney Walter and juniors Heather Burkhalter, Kayleigh Nesbitt and Maha Mustafa. Senior Anna Latimer hopes to return after coming back from a knee injury sustained in 2018, Kasten said.

BADGER NORTH CONFERENCE

Waunakee, second in league play last year and which is in Division 1 this season, will be a favorite with defending conference champion Mount Horeb this year.

Sauk Prairie coach Mike Rauls enters his 15th season and believes this might be the Eagles’ best offensive team in recent years. Rauls said he hopes Sauk Prairie can make a move up and surpass Mount Horeb and/or Waunakee. Fourteen letterwinners return from a 16-5-2 team. Returning starters include junior midfielder/forward Kelsey Selden (14 goals, one assist), junior defender Ella Schad (10 goals, five assists), senior forward Camryn Ballweg (nine goals, eight assists), senior midfielder Riley Breunig, senior defender Taylor Breininger, senior defender Katie Mack, junior midfielder Macy Breunig and junior midfielder Ainsley Apel. Sophomore Maddie Ganshert and senior Bridget Fabian are goalkeepers.

CAPITOL CONFERENCE

Belleville/New Glarus enters as the favorite. Lodi, led by all-conference midfielder Alana Gilles, was second last season.

Lodi lost eight starters, but has eight letterwinners returning. “While this team is young and mostly consists of new faces, they are driven to take the team to the next level,” said Lodi coach Joseph Birkholz, who has three starters returning. “We had a disappointing end of season last year and we are looking to get back to where we thought we should be.” Last year, Lodi, a fourth seed, defeated Jefferson in regional play but lost to fifth-seeded McFarland 3-2 in a Division 3 regional final.

Gilles, a senior midfielder, is back for Lodi. “She has fabtastic vision and commands the middle of the field,” Birkholz said. Junior midfielder Grace Maerz and senior goalkeeper Riley Schmidt also are top players for the Blue Devils.

Columbus — under the direction of first-year coach Gerald Jacobson, who was Beaver Dam’s JV2 coach for two years — was off to a 3-0 start through Tuesday.

Hannah Uher takes over as the Lakeside Lutheran coach and hopes the Warriors can finish with a winning record. “With a completely new coaching staff, we’re excited to continue to grow and improve the girls soccer program here at Lakeside,” Uher said.

Jeff Hegstrom takes over as Lake Mills coach and expects the L-Cats to be a surprise team this season after finishing last in conference play in 2018. “I think we’re poised to get back to a winning season, competing at the top of the conference and achieving postseason milestones,” Hegstrom said. “We need to continue to play with passion, improve on our skills and stick together to meet our goals.” Senior goalkeeper Ashley Buth, senior defender Ashlyn Primmer, senior midfielder Ashli Patrick, junior midfielders Emily Strauss and Mia Kroll, sophomore midfielder Julianna Wagner, freshman forward Ava Stelter and freshman defender Katelyn Kitsembel are expected to be top contributors.

ROCK VALLEY CONFERENCE

McFarland enters the season as the defending conference winner. “McFarland returns several first-team all-conference players from last year to a team that was undefeated in the conference,” Edgerton coach Holly Gould said. “Both Evansville and (Walworth) Big Foot bring back a nice group of young players that will battle for the bragging rights.”

Gould believes Edgerton can finish in the top half of the conference due to its increased balance and depth. Edgerton will seek to replace its top two scorers and is expected to be led by senior Cammi Gould, a second-team all-conference defender, and senior Amelia Weger, an honorable-mention defender.

Evansville coach Brandon Jerstad believes his team will compete for the conference title after finishing second in the regular-season standings last year. Evansville has 12 returning letterwinners. Returning starters are Abbie Rosonke, Zoe Winter, Taylor Acker (four goals, one assist), Abby Eftemoff (nine goals, four assists), Olivia Hunt, Baily Spach and Lindsey Carlson. “I think our team this year is more mature and more talented than last year’s team,” Jerstad said. “Our team needs to work hard together and believe in ourselves.”

 Jon Masson