Soccer Cards have high hopes

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton girls soccer coach Mary Duffy and her Cardinals are hoping to have a banner year./File photo

The end is never easy.

It’s even worse when you dominate a competition throughout, yet still fall short on the scoreboard.

That happened to Middleton’s girls’ soccer team last year, when it controlled play against Verona in a regional final, yet dropped a 1-0 decision.

The Cardinals return a deep and gifted team this spring. Middleton’s combination of talent and its desire to return to state for the first time since 2013 will drive the Cardinals this year.

Middleton, which opened the year ranked No. 7 in the Wisconsin Soccer Coaches Association poll, begins its new season Friday. The Cardinals will compete at the Madison Memorial Invite at Woodside Sports Complex in Wisconsin Dells beginning at 5 p.m.

“I think that we are always driven,” Middleton coach Mary Duffy said. “We have very competitive members of the team, playing not only at the highest level at high school, but at high levels across the state with club teams, etc. We want to win. Always. 

“It could have been anyone in the sectional and we would still be disappointed that we lost. It is the nature of a competitive team. Every time we step on the field, we want to win and dominate.  

“Losing always bugs me. It especially bugs me when we lost to a team that we are better than and that we dominated for the majority of the game. We wanted to go further into the postseason and the nature of soccer is that anyone can win at any time.”

Middleton certainly did its share of winning a year ago.

The Cardinals went 13-6-2 overall against a loaded schedule and edged Madison West by one point for the Big Eight Conference championship.

A terrific, six-person senior class packed with experience and ability will lead this year’s Cardinals.

Senior defender Emily Duecker is a four-year varsity player who was a first-team all-Big Eight Conference player a year ago.

“After a lot of shifting of the defense last year trying to figure out our best and most effective formation, (Duecker) swept and really flourished as she usually does,” Duffy said. “She stepped up in her leadership abilities on the field and that is translating to this year as well, leading on and off the field.”

Senior keeper Caroline Powers is another four-year varsity player who will try going out on a high. Senior forward/defender Lexi Schultz was an honorable-mention all-conference player last year and is in her third varsity season.

“Schultz has moved around for us, usually playing in our back, but has also played up top,” Duffy said. “She is fierce, tenacious in the air, in her defense and is one of the most competitive people on the team. She works hard and puts everything out there on the field every time she is in the game.”

Senior midfielders Tavi Tanin and Lauren Griffin and senior forward Lauren Wempner are all in their third varsity seasons, as well.

“These six seniors will be our anchors and our leaders for the rest of the 19 players on the team, 11 of them new to this squad,” Duffy said. “We will rely on these six seniors to set the tone with expectations, leadership, camaraderie … that will be needed for a state run.”

The Cardinals also have a strong junior class with loads of experience.

Defender Emily Raislinger was an honorable-mention all-conference player last season, and according to Duffy, “will dominate in the back.”

Junior midfielder McKenzie Zocher is one of the Cardinals’ smartest players, while junior midfielder Danielle Martin has terrific speed and deceptive skills.

Junior defender Lauren Hendricks aims to bounceback from an injury-filled year. Junior forward Hailey Kowalski is a dangerous striker, while junior defender Taylor Rough brings tenacity to the back.

Midfielder Tyler Wilson leads the sophomore class after being named second-team all-Big Eight last year

“Wilson dominated the center-mid last year and we look to see her do much of the same this year,” Duffy said.

Sophomore keeper Emelie Gehrke-Kallstromer will also battle with Powers for time in net.

Middleton’s newcomers include juniors Caitlynn Owens, Victoria Zander and Emma Schuster; sophomores Maeve Gonter, Kyra Ginsberg, Lauren Hafeman, Cami Malak and Kendall Roquet; and freshmen Victoria Bunz, Alaina Malak and Anna Mintz.

Madison West, Verona and Middleton are among the favorites in the Big Eight this season. Sun Prairie, Madison Memorial and Janesville Craig will also factor in.

“This year will be competitive and I would expect nothing else from the other Big Eight teams and coaches,” Duffy said. “And I look forward to an exciting season.”

 

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