Girls soccer team aiming high

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Rob Reischel
Middleton junior forward Kristen Reikersdorfer was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference last season./File photo


What rankings?

That was Mary Duffy’s reaction when told her Middleton girls soccer team began the year ranked No. 4 in the first Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association poll of the season.

“I had no idea,” Duffy said of the preseason rankings. “That is very nice that people voted for us. I think our strong runs in the postseason contribute to this ranking, and while I think Middleton will be good and we have the squad to make a strong run during postseason, this is still a new year with different kinks to work out. I do not put much stock in pre-season rankings, nor do I during the season.”

That seems wise, as the rankings themselves — especially in April — are worth less than the paper they’re printed on.

But people clearly think highly of Middleton once again this season, and it’s easy to see why.

The Cardinals captured a second straight Big Eight Conference title last season and reached the WIAA Division 1 sectional finals. Middleton lost a terrific group of 12 seniors from that team, but returns a gifted nucleus and has several newcomers ready to make their mark.

“Middleton is one of the top schools in the state for getting teams to state, or at least having a long postseason run,” said Duffy, whose team opens its season Saturday with games at Appleton North and Kimberly. “Our goal every year is to make it to state.

“We will constantly adjust and re-adjust for each game to help us have the maximum potential of a state-bound team this year. We will work with formations, tactics and positions. We had promising tryouts this past week and we look forward to the intensity of training and games.”

Despite the heavy graduation losses, Middleton has a pair of terrific starting points in senior defender Grace Douglas and junior forward Kristen Reikersdorfer.

Douglas, a University of Wisconsin recruit, was named first-team all-Big Eight as a sophomore and second-team all-conference last year.

“Grace is focused, serious and determined,” Duffy said. “She is working hard during practice, pushing her teammates. This is the most focused I have see Grace since she has been on the team. 

“She has set up very specific goals for the season and her determination is setting the pace for others. Her teammates want to see her reach her goals and are looking to help her in achieving them.”

Reikersdorfer played in just the first 16 games of 2015 before suffering a season-ending injury. Amazingly, Reikersdorfer still led the Cardinals in scoring with 12 goals, five assists and 29 points.

“Kristen is elevating her game even further by working on helping lead the team as well,” Duffy said. “She is ready to work, train, and play. Her touch and decision making is that of a Division 1 college athlete. Her ability to see the field tactically will help make the center of the field our strongest asset.”

The Cardinals have several other returnees ready for an expanded role. 

Junior midfielder Kallie Acker missed most of 2015 with an injury, but should be ready for a big season.

“She will dominate the middle with her exciting, but composed play,” Duffy said of Acker. “She will be one of our leaders.”

Junior Maya Shea partnered up with Reikersdorfer last year to form a deadly forward tandem. Shea has great versatility, though, and Duffy may use her in different spots this spring.

“She can play anywhere we need her, and we will need to determine the best place for her to maximize her ability,” Duffy said of Shea. “She may not be in the scoring section of the field this season, but her communication on the field will help organize our formation.”

Senior midfielder Emma Geppert is a two-year varsity player expected to do big things in her final season.

“Emma will continue to be our spark plug,” Duffy said. “She is tenacious wherever she plays. Everyone can tell that she loves the game by the energy she puts onto the field.”

Junior forward Tessa Grywalsky has a powerful shot. And sophomore defender Emily Duecker joined the varsity late last season and should be a terrific complement to Douglas in back. Senior keeper Belle Gallegos also returns in goal.

Middleton also has a gifted group of newcomers it will be expecting big things from.

“The newcomers will be looking to fill in for every spot on the field with the loss of a strong senior class last year,” Duffy said. “At this point it is hard to say who will step up. We will be a young squad with four freshmen and five new sophomores.”

The Big Eight is one of the top leagues in the state every year, and this season figures to be the same. Madison Memorial and Madison West are perennial powers, and Sun Prairie is a program on the rise.

But most expect Middleton to be the team to beat once again.

“We will be in the hunt, absolutely,” Duffy said. “And we absolutely have a great chance of repeating. We have 24 hard working, determined group of girls ready to make their mark on the season. We will and could be very dangerous.

“What I want my players to know is that … it will take hard work. It will not come easily in a conference that challenges for the gold ball every year. It will not come easily if we do not believe and put every once of sweat and desire into making it as a team. 

“It will take a team effort from 24 girls who know that they could be part of something bigger than a single season. Every girl will need to be on the same page whether they start or come off the bench or do not leave the bench. Every girl is extremely valuable in our hopes to return to state again this year.”

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