Middleton's stars of the century

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By: 
Rob Reischel
Former Middleton athletes Lindsey Solberg, Libby Torresani, Loren Skibba, Micaela Statz, Alyssa Lemirande, Amy Siedschlag, Denitza Koleva, Grace Douglas, Molly Toon and Kayla Beckwith all enjoyed stellar careers./Times-Tribune photos by Mary Langenfeld

The task was daunting.

The Times-Tribune recently asked a 16-person panel to rank the best male and female athletes to pass through Middleton High School in the 21st century. Any athlete who competed in the 21st century was eligible to be nominated and their exploits across their entire career were considered, even if a portion of their playing days came in the 1990s.

The panel consisted of past and present coaches, local sportswriters and community members that have seen countless Cardinals’ events.

There were no set criteria outlined. Beauty was in the eye of each beholder.

If one voter thought a multi-sport athlete with solid production across the board rated ahead of a one-sport athlete who excelled at their craft, that was their prerogative. If another voter prioritized team success, that was fine, too.

Nearly 60 boys and 60 girls were nominated for consideration, and after the votes were tabulated, each field was trimmed to a top-20.

The Times-Tribune will present results from each gender over the next four weeks. The schedule will be as follows:

• July 9 — Girls No. 11-20

• July 16 — Girls No. 1-10

• July 23 — Boys No. 11-20

• July 30 — Boys No. 1-10

We hope you enjoy looking back at many of the athletes who have helped make Middleton athletics shine this century.

 

11. Loren Skibba

Golf, track (Class of 2016)

Skibba is certainly in the discussion for the best female golfer in Middleton history.

Skibba competed at the WIAA Division 1 state tournament each year between 2012-2015 and finished in the top-five three out of her four seasons at MHS. She also led Middleton to top-three team finishes in three of her seasons with the Cardinals.

Skibba won the individual state championship as a junior in 2014. She shot a 3-under par, 69, on the opening day of state, finished the two-day tournament at 3-over par and won the event by four strokes over Homestead’s Anika Hitt.

“I’m really happy, kind of speechless,” Skibba said in October, 2014 after winning the state title. “My short game has always hurt me, but I got a lot better on those little 3- and 4-foot putts. That was really big.”

During Skibba’s senior year in 2015, she led Middleton to a thrilling one-stroke team championship over Hartland Arrowhead. Skibba was also second individually that year, finishing three strokes behind Beaver Dam’s Ashley Kulka.

Skibba was named the state Player of the Year in 2015 by the Wisconsin Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin. Skibba averaged 74.65 that season, which was the lowest in the state. She also finished first at seven of 13 tournaments that year.

As a sophomore in 2013, Skibba was fifth individually at state and led Middleton to a third-place team finish. She was also 15th individually as a freshman.

Skibba was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference all four seasons at Middleton. She was also named first-team all-state as a junior and senior, and second-team all-state as a freshman and a sophomore.

Skibba was also a two-year letterwinner in track and field.

She received a scholarship to golf at Northern Arizona.

“I loved coaching Loren because she was one who would shine in pressure situations,” Middleton coach Becky Halverson said. “Some girls let their nerves get the best of them, but Loren was one who performed best under pressure.”

 

12. Molly Toon

Volleyball (Class of 2010)

Toon’s father, Al, enjoyed an eight-year NFL career, while her brother, Nick, spent three years in the NFL.

“He’s a really smart guy, so any advice I need I can get from him,” Toon once said of her father. “If I don’t understand, I can go to my brother. I have a lot of resources and I’m lucky I have those to utilize.”

Molly certainly did that, becoming one of the most accomplished volleyball players in school history.

Toon, a standout outside hitter, led Middleton to the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in both 2008 and 2009, then played collegiately at the University of Michigan.

“Molly was a great player and was always looking for that next challenge,” former Middleton coach Franco Marcos said of Toon. “She always pushed the limit and was very coachable.”

Toon was a four-year letter-winner at Middleton who got better every year.

Toon was named first-team all-Big Eight Conference as a junior in 2008 and a senior in 2009. She was also named second-team all-state both of those seasons.

Toon was huge reason Middleton won 60 consecutive conference matches between 2005-2009.

In the 2009 season, Toon led the Cardinals with 463 kills and 402 digs. At the state tournament that season, Toon set a state record that still stands with 20 digs in a three-set match during a quarterfinal win over D.C. Everest. She also had 19 kills in that match and hit a blistering .484.

In Toon’s final two seasons, Middleton went 77-17 overall, including 41-6 her senior year.

Toon then enjoyed a stellar four-year career at Michigan.

“She understood a lot of things on how to be mentally steady,” Michigan coach Mark Rosen said. “Her confidence didn’t move up and down a lot. She wasn’t cocky, arrogant or over-the-top.”

Just successful. Very successful.

 

13. Libby Torresani

Gymnastics, track, swimming (Class of 2011)

“I love doing things most people would never think of doing,” Torresani once said.

And that could certainly sum up her brilliant career at MHS.

Torresani was a standout in both gymnastics and track and field, and competed in swimming as a freshman.

Gymnastics was arguably Torresani’s top sport, as she earned trips to the WIAA Division 1 state meet all four years, highlighted by a ninth-place finish in the all-around competition as a senior.

Torresani’s final gymnastics season was undoubtedly her best. She was seventh at state that year on the uneven bars, placed third in the Big Eight Conference in the all-around competition and was a co-captain and Middleton’s Most Valuable Gymnast.

As a junior in 2010, Torresani competed as an individual at state on the vault and helped the Cardinals place sixth in the team competition.

As a sophomore, Torresani was fourth at every event at sectionals and qualified for state. There, she placed seventh on the balance beam, was named all-state on the vault and helped the Cardinals place fourth at state as a team.

As a freshman, Torresani qualified for state on the vault and helped Middleton finish fifth as a team.

In track and field, Torresani was a four-time letterwinner who competed in the pole vault, 100-meter dash and 400-meter relay.

As a junior in 2010, Torresani was on Middleton’s 400-meter relay team that finished eighth at state. Then as a senior, Torresani was sixth at state in the pole vault.

“Libby's years on the track team were pretty amazing,” former Middleton track and field coach Tara Franklin said. “She worked so incredibly hard, and she and I spent so many hours after practice was ‘officially’ over, on the weekends, and during the summers at the pole vault pit working on her skills.

“She still holds the school record, and not only did she spend countless hours at the pole vault pit, she also excelled in the 100-meter dash as well as contributing to the sprint relays.”

Torresani also competed in swimming as a freshman in the 100 butterfly and the 100 freestyle. 

She later competed at Northern Iowa, where she broke the school record in the indoor pole vault three times.

“Competing in sports has taught me that when things get tough, you have to keep going,” Torresani once said.

She certainly did that, becoming one of Middleton’s top female athletes this century.

 

14. Amy Siedschlag

Softball, basketball, volleyball (Class of 2002)

Siedschlag was a three-sport standout, whose greatest successes came on the softball diamond.

Siedschlag, who played shortstop, was named first-team all-state in 2002 when she batted .391 with 13 RBI and 15 stolen bases. She was also named first-team all-Big Eight Conference, first-team all-district and represented Wisconsin in the Tri-State Challenge.

As a junior, Siedschlag was named first-team all-Big Eight and first-team all-district. She was also a key cog on Middleton’s Big Eight Conference championship teams in 1999 and 2000.

Siedschlag has been a Middleton assistant coach since 2008.

“Honestly one of the coolest parts now that I'm older and coaching softball at MHS is that I have had the honor to be coached by, or to coach with all Middleton varsity coaches in the program history,” Siedschlag said Monday. “I believe Russ Shaub was the first coach, then Cherie Hellenbrand, Arin Oppermann, Cherie again, Perry Hibner and now Brittany Carl. I just love being a part of the program's history.”

Siedschlag was also a three-year starter in basketball who was known for her defensive tenacity and toughness. She was named honorable-mention all-Big Eight as both a junior and a senior.

Siedschlag helped Middleton reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in 2001, where at times she defended future WNBA superstar center Janelle McCarville.

“Amy was the ultimate blue-collar player, one of the best at taking charges,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “She was fearless.”

Siedschlag was also a jack-of-all trades in volleyball. As a senior in 2001, she had 37 kills, 57 digs and helped Middleton reach the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals. She also helped the Cardinals win back-to-back conference championships in 2000 and 2001.

“Amy was a very coachable player,” said Franco Marcos, who coached Siedschlag in volleyball. “She understood her role coming off the bench. She was always ready when called upon and had an awesome attitude.”

 

15. Lindsey Solberg

Golf (Class of 2008)

Solberg spent four sensational years inside Middleton’s golf program, where she achieved tremendous individual success and powered the Cardinals to lofty heights.

Solberg won the WIAA Division 1 individual state championship as a junior in 2006, firing a sublime 1-over-par 145 at the two-day event to top her nearest competitor by six strokes.

Solberg became the first female golfer in school history to win an individual state title.

“There have been a lot of great players that have come to Middleton and have been so close,” Solberg said after winning state in 2006. “So it’s nice to pull one out for Middleton.

“It’s always been a goal of mine to win state, ever since I was little and would come out and watch Middleton. It’s pretty exciting.”

Solberg nearly made it back-to-back titles in 2007, but finished second at state, one shot behind Nicolet’s Tory Bauman.

“She’s a player,” former Middleton coach Bill Curtin said. “It’s that simple. She does what she does. I just try staying out of the way.”

Solberg was also fifth individually at state as a freshman in 2004 and fourth as a sophomore.

Solberg was named first-team all-state and first-team all-Big Eight Conference three times. She was also the Big Eight’s Player of the Year twice.

During Solberg’s MHS career, the Cardinals finished second at state in 2004, fourth in 2005 and fifth in 2006.

“She was so much fun to watch because she always liked to take risks with her golf shots and she knew how to execute them perfectly,” said Becky Halverson, who was Middleton’s JV coach during the Solberg years.

Solberg then played for Michigan State where she finished her career with the sixth-lowest scoring average in school history at 76.13. She was a three-time All-Big Ten Conference selection, recorded 10 top-10 finishes and 14 top-20 finishes in her Spartans’ career.

 

16. Micaela Statz

Gymnastics, diving (Class of 2000)

Statz didn’t start gymnastics until the seventh grade, when she took part in a middle school club run by former MHS coach Cyndie Zocher.

“In the first week of club, she learned a back handspring, kip on bars and was jumping 4-plus feet in the air doing jumps on the balance beam,” Zocher said. “I couldn't believe she had never had a tumbling or gymnastics class in her entire life. I told her she had to start gymnastics! You can't waste a gift like that!”

And what a gift it was.

By the time Statz was a senior in 2000, she had become Middleton’s first-ever WIAA Division 1 champion in the all-around competition. Statz finished second that year on the floor exercise and second on the vault on her way to winning the all-around state title.

The following day, Statz helped Middleton finish second in the state team competition — which remains tied for the best team finish in state history.

Statz became the first Middleton gymnast to compete at the high school nationals. She then competed at UW-Eau Claire.

“Micaela was one of the easiest kids to coach that I have ever worked with,” Zocher said. “She had no fear. She would literally try anything I threw at her and she could usually do it on her first try. She was very chill, she never took herself too seriously and never got rattled. 

“To this day I have never seen an athlete that could jump like her, especially on the balance beam. Judges will still talk about her and how powerful and fun she was to watch. She literally set a new standard for Wisconsin high school gymnastics.   

“She would be giggling and being goofy right before she would get up on the beam to compete, and the second she started her routine she was all business. The second she completed her routine she was back to laughing and being silly. I think she spent as much time laughing in the gym as she did working.”

 

17. Kayla Beckwith

Swimming, track, basketball (Class of 2009)

Beckwith was a three-sport standout who made her biggest splash in the swimming pool.

Beckwith was a four-time letterwinner and four-year state qualifier in swimming. As a senior, she was fifth in the 400 freestyle relay, sixth in the 200 freestyle relay and 100 freestyle, and seventh in the 50 freestyle at state. She also earned All-America honors in all four events.

Middleton finished second as a team at the WIAA Division 1 state meet her freshman and sophomore years, third her junior year and seventh her senior year.

When Beckwith graduated, she had the third-fastest time in school history in the 50 freestyle.

“Kayla was one of the best athletes I have coached,” Middleton coach Lauren Cabalka said. “Watching her out of the water was where you really saw how athletic she was. She was consistently one of the fastest runners, most coordinated in dryland workouts and someone who knew how to push herself well outside of her comfort zone, because she knew that was where improvement and growth happened. 

“More than anything, she was an amazing leader and student-athlete. She was incredibly kind, inclusive, hard-working and full of integrity.”

In track and field, Beckwith was part of Middleton’s 1,600-meter relay team that finished fourth at the WIAA Division 1 state meet and set a school record in the event in 2008.

In 2009, Beckwith finished fifth in the 400-meter dash at state and was part of Middleton’s 400-meter relay team that placed seventh.

“Kayla joined the track team after some convincing from some of her friends, and we were definitely glad she did,” former Cardinals coach Tara Franklin said. “She was so gifted, not just in the swimming pool and the basketball court, but she found that she could glide around the track with such ease and speed that she truly became a big part of our relay teams when it came time for tournaments. We were thrilled to have Kayla become such an integral part of our team.”

Beckwith was also one of the top defenders Middleton’s basketball program has had this century.

Beckwith was a two-time letterwinner and two-year starter who helped lead Middleton to state her final two years in the program. As a junior in 2008, Beckwith and the Cardinals reached the state quarterfinals, then MHS reached the state semifinals her senior year in 2009.

“Kayla just kept getting better and better and she became one of our all-time best one-on-one defenders,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said. “She was smart and tenacious on defense. She may have been the best defensive player I’ve ever had.”

 

18. Grace Douglas

Soccer, basketball (Class of 2016)

The 6-foot-1 Douglas was a game-changing athlete who was a four-year letterwinner for Middleton’s girls soccer program. She also lettered three years in basketball, before electing not to play as a senior.

Douglas joined the varsity soccer team as a freshman, helping the Cardinals reach the WIAA Division 1 state tournament in 2013. She was also named honorable-mention all-Big Eight Conference that season.

Douglas, a standout defender, was a first-team all-Big Eight selection as a sophomore. In addition to being a defensive stalwart, she had six goals and two assists that season.

Douglas was named second-team all-league as a junior in 2015, then earned first-team all-conference and second-team all-state honors as a senior.

She then played at the University of Wisconsin.

“Her skill was obvious from day one as a freshman, and during that season she dazzled with her footwork, speed, and defensive knowledge, and surprised the entire state with the ease of her play, her game intelligence, and her confidence,” Middleton girls soccer coach Mary Duffy said. “This domination continued throughout her career allowing us to create a more offensive presence in games because we knew Grace had the back line.

“Even though opponents tried to mark her on corners, she won the headers in her area every time, fixing us points on the board and clearances off our goal line. Grace led her team from the field with poise, confidence, and her competitive spirit. Off the field she was a fantastic teammate, always putting the ‘we’ before ‘me’, communicating, and supportive of her teammates.”

Douglas also made the varsity basketball team as a freshman, and was named honorable-mention all-Big Eight Conference as a sophomore in 2014. Douglas was part of Middleton’s 2015 team that reached the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals, before losing to eventual champion Divine Savior Holy Angels.

“Grace had an excellent physical combination of size and speed,” Middleton girls basketball coach Jeff Kind said.

 

19. Alyssa Lemirande

Basketball, track (Class of 2017)

Lemirande is the oldest of triplets and was a born leader during her time at MHS.

Lemirande was named second-team all-Big Eight Conference and a team captain as a senior, and honorable-mention all-conference as a sophomore.

Lemirande helped lead Middleton to the state semifinals as a senior in 2017, when the Cardinals lost in overtime to DePere. Lemirande was also a key cog on Middleton’s 2015 team that reached the state semifinals and lost in overtime to DSHA.

During Lemirande’s three years on Middleton’s varsity, the Cardinals went 66-13 overall and 48-6 in the Big Eight Conference. Middleton also won the league twice and was the conference runner-up once.

“Alyssa Lemirande was a dream athlete to coach,” Middleton coach Jeff Kind said. “She set the standard for focus, dedication to detail and desire to improve through practice.

“When I talk about how to practice the game today, I talk about her. She never took a drill off.”

Lemirande was also a standout in track and field all four years, excelling primarily in the 400- and 800-meter runs.

As a senior in 2017, Lemirande was part of Middleton’s 800-meter relay team that finished ninth at state. In 2016, Lemirande was on Middleton’s 1,600-meter relay team that placed 10th.

Lemirande was also part of the Cardinals’ state qualifying 1,600-meter relay team in 2015.

“Alyssa was possibly one of the quietest pieces of the puzzle that we ever had on the team,” former MHS coach Tara Franklin said. “It was great to have her shine in a sport where she really found her own place to be.

“She was such a gifted 400- and 800-meter runner by just her natural ability. To be able to come off of the basketball season each year and build up her stamina to run such great times was truly commendable.”

Lemirande currently plays basketball at Edgewood College, where she was named the NCAA Division III Private Schools Player of the Year by the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association in 2020.

Lemirande averaged 13.6 points and 4.7 rebounds per game last season and led the Eagles to a 25-3 record. She also added 117 assists, 34 steals and 16 blocked shots last year.

 

20. Denitza Koleva

Volleyball (Class of 2003)

Nicknamed the ‘Bulgarian Bomber’, Koleva is one of the most dominant volleyball players in school history.

Koleva, who moved from Bulgaria to Middleton before her freshman year, spent three seasons at MHS. During her sophomore season, she returned to Bulgaria.

Koleva powered Middleton to the WIAA Division 1 state semifinals as both a junior and a senior.

As a junior in 2001, Koleva led the Cardinals with 375 kills, 251 digs and a sizzling hitting percentage of .527. 

Koleva followed that with 344 kills and a .493 hitting percentage as a senior in 2002. She also had 122 digs, even though she was primarily known as a hitter.

During Middleton’s two matches at state in 2002, Koleva had 165 attack attempts, a record that still stands today.

Koleva was also named first-team all-Big Eight Conference her final two years, and first-team all-state as a senior.

“She’s the best terminator and go-to player all-time at Middleton,” former Cardinals coach Franco Marcos said of Koleva. “Denitza was very coachable and always eager to learn.”

Koleva went on to a stellar career at Arkansas, where she still ranks third in career kills (1,595), fifth in aces (128) and eighth in digs (1,062).

“I don't like getting involved in stuff that I'll just do mediocre in,” Koleva once said.

Mediocre was never a term used to describe Koleva — or any of the athletes on this list.

 

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