Soccer Cardinals earn all-Big 8 honors

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Middleton senior defender Emily Raisleger was named first-team all-Big Eight./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Middleton’s girls’ soccer team enjoyed a terrific year in which the Cardinals went 10-4-4 and reached a WIAA Division 1 sectional final.

Not surprisingly, the Cardinals had several players earn all-Big Eight Conference honors.

Junior midfielder Tyler Wilson and senior defender Emily Raisleger were named first-team all-conference.

Senior forward McKenzie Zocher, sophomore forward Victoria Bunz, senior midfielder Danielle Martin and senior defender Caitlynn Owens were named second-team all-league.

And senior forward Hailey Kowalski, senior defender Lauren Hendricks and junior keeper Emelie Gehrke received honorable-mention all-conference honors.
Wilson led Middleton with 15 goals and added five assists. Wilson was also voted the Cardinals’ ‘Most Valuable Attacker’ by her teammates.

“It has always been evident by her dominance on the field, her heart, her skills,” Middleton coach Mary Duffy said of Wilson. “Her foot skills out matches anything the Big Eight teams have, and then her ability to rifle a shot, left or right foot, after the carnage of her slicing and dicing through the defense makes her one of the most dangerous players. 

“We moved her around the field this year depending on where we wanted to showcase her skills and best capitalize on the opponent's defense. She moved into those positions with ease and brought a different level of dangerous to us.”

Raisleger was the anchor of a Middleton defense that shutout nine opponents, including three in the postseason. Raisleger was voted the Cardinals’ ‘Most Valuable Defender’ and also scored her long goal of the year in Middleton’s regular season win over Sun Prairie.

“Our back line this year did an excellent job of defending, but also an excellent job of possessing and helping us switch the point of the attack,” Duffy said. “Emily was a big part of that.

“She would anticipate, steal the ball and then move it to an outside back to keep possession and help start a dangerous moment for our attack. She was fierce, tenacious and all heart for this team.”

Zocher battled back from a torn ACL in each knee and had a terrific senior season. Zocher had five goals, four assists and tied for third on the team in total points (14).

Zocher, who will play collegiately at Carthage College, also had a hat trick against Beloit Memorial/Turner.

“She is one of our more knowledgeable players on the field and we used her skill and knowledge to move her to positions that would help our offensive presence,” Duffy said of Zocher. “Either up top as a holding forward because she can hold the ball well, turn and nail a shot from outside the box, or at our wing space, making check back runs, placing perfect through balls to earn those assists.”

Bunz led the Cardinals with nine assists, added five goals and finished second on the team with 19 points.

“Like most of our attacking crew, this sophomore was moved around to best utilize what we needed at that moment, between outside forward or outside mid or even center forward depending on our need for that game,” Duffy said of Bunz. “She was vital to our ability to play multiple formations well.

“Countless times, she was able to get around her defender to send off a cross or slot ball to assist or set up dangerous opportunities. And her ability to play with either foot makes her nearly impossible to defend especially adding her speed at defenders.”

Martin finished second on the team with seven goals and tied for third with 14 points. She also had game-winning goals against Brookfield East in the regular season and vs. Beloit in the postseason.

“Danielle upped her game this year with scoring in big moments,” Duffy said of Martin. “She is one of our best central players and has the best 360-degree game. 

“She is skilled with both feet. Her knowledge of the game, her ability to put knowledge and skill and tactics together on the field and then her voice and leadership on the field make her one of our most influential players. She is our rock in the midfield that stops opponents from gathering continual possession and our first person on offense.”

Owens finished the year with five goals and two assists, despite playing in back. Owens had a huge goal in the Cardinals’ sectional final loss to Waunakee, one that pulled Middleton within a goal in the final minutes.

Owens, who will play collegiately at UW-Milwaukee, also shut down Big Eight Player of the Year Alexis Baker of Sun Prairie in the sectional semifinals.

“Much of her dominance is because of her ability to head the ball, which is why she was our first target on offensive corners and our first line of defense on our defensive corners and we looked to her to clear everything out of there,” Duffy said of Owens. “She reads the game well. She sees the field well and can play one-touch soccer best than most players.

“She is also really strong verbally and communicates what is needed. She is smart, skilled and has the ability to find that perfect pass that relieves pressure and starts our offensive attack.”

Kowalski finished the year with four goals, six assists and 14 points. Kowalski also had a memorable, game-winning goal against Madison East earlier in the year.

“Hailey was another one of our seniors whose presence was not only in attacking, but defending at the forward position,” Duffy said. “Numerous times this season, she would pin the defenders and block their attempt to clear for us to transition into offense. This was vital to stop any transition attacking the opponent felt they had on our team defense. She has deft cuts and turns that would open her up at the top of the box to rocket a long range shot with either of her feet.”

Hendricks was a dominant defender who helped Middleton field one of the top back lines in the area.

“We often relied on her speedy, tenacious defense to stop attackers,” Duffy said. “Or at times, she would deftly weave up the sideline to put in a cross from the wing space.

“She was all over the place, which is how she played. Sprint back to recover and then sprint forward to be a help in the attack.”

Gehrke’s goals against average was 0.99 heading into the sectional final. And she had a season packed with many memorable saves that helped Middleton achieve many of its goals.

“She kept us alive in some closer conference games, especially in the beginning of the year when we were trying to find our scoring energy and consistency,” Duffy said of Gehrke. “This three-year varsity player gave us many of those moments — diving breakaway saves against East, literally a last second tip save against Memorial, punch saves off of corners or crosses that never count towards stats, but are immeasurably important.”

 

 

 

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