Soccer Cards thrilled new season has arrived

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MTT News's picture
By: 
Rob Reischel
Ben Tutewohl and Middleton’s boys soccer team begin their new season on April 6./File photo

The wait was excruciating.

Which is why the return figures to be so much sweeter.

Middleton’s boys soccer teams began its new season Monday. And after a 16-month gap between competitions, the Cardinals were thrilled to get their new year started.

“The kids are fired up,” said Kevin Pauls, who’s beginning his first year as Middleton’s head coach. “We had contact days a couple weeks ago and had over 90 student-athletes participate each of the five nights. As of Friday, I have about 130 kids signed up, which is down a little from a normal year, but still shows how excited these players are to get out and play.”

No one is more excited than Pauls, though.

Pauls is a lifelong soccer player who attended McFarland High School and began coaching with the Spartans in 1998. At McFarland, Pauls coached at all levels and was also a varsity assistant.

Pauls spent the 2006 season at Madison La Follette and served as the interim head coach the final few weeks of that year.

Pauls then joined Middleton’s staff in 2007 where he worked for head coaches Ken Burghy and Ben Kollasch. Pauls has coached all levels at MHS, and had a huge hand in starting the Cardinals’ varsity reserve program in 2012. Today, Middleton’s varsity reserve team plays about 70% of its schedule against varsity opponents.

Pauls was hired in May, 2020, but due to COVID-19, wasn’t able to do much with his team until recently.

“I'm super excited,” said Pauls, who is also the top assistant for Middleton’s girls varsity team. “It's weird to think I was hired over a year ago and until our contact days, I hadn't done anything except paperwork and emails. Since hearing our AD say, ‘it's go time’ it's been pretty crazy. It has seemed like each time we have a plan, things change and we have had to start over.”

The Cardinals certainly won’t have to start over on the pitch.

Senior midfielder Ben Tutewohl was a first-team all-Big Eight Conference player in 2019 when he posted 18 goals and 12 assists.

Senior defensive center midfielder Ian Staresinik was named honorable-mention all-conference in 2019. Senior forward Ezra Joseph had 12 goals and seven assists last season, senior Trey Belgiano is a terrific defender and junior keeper Mack Meyers saw some time in goal in 2019.

Among the top newcomers to varsity are seniors Guyan Gibson, Luis Martinez Cruz, Chase Quamme, Sean Ruhly and Eli Simani, as well as junior Noah Corrigan.

“All of these guys can play multiple spots on the field, which will give us lots of flexibility,” Pauls said. “We had a number of talented players playing on our Varsity Reserve and freshmen teams last season, so I'm certain we'll have some new names in the mix as well.”

Roughly 75% of the state’s teams played volleyball last fall, meaning there won’t be nearly as many scheduling options for Pauls and the Cardinals. While all of those are an inconvenience, no one in Middleton’s camp is complaining.

“This season will certainly be different,” Pauls said. “At the varsity level I was able to find a reasonable number of games against some good competition (Neenah, Eau Claire Memorial, Oshkosh West, Monona Grove, McFarland).

“At our lower levels it's been a bit of a struggle to find games without the Madison schools playing  — or at least not playing yet. Usually they account for a ton of sub-varsity games. The blessing with our large programs is that we're going to be able to schedule a number of inner-program games that most programs couldn't.”

The schedule isn't the only challenge for Pauls and his Cardinals.

The club season starts soon, which could create conflicts for the athletes. Pauls might have to clone himself to have any chance of helping with the girls’ team, which begins on April 26 and has a three-week crossover with the boys. And when the boys and girls are both playing, finding enough fields for all of the teams could be a challenge.

“Playing in the spring adds some conflicts,” Pauls said. “I know we'll have some players at all levels that will play double duty when they can per WIAA and MHS rules. We will also have some players that will split time between soccer and their normal spring sport.

“We'll also have five coaches pulling double duty during the three-week overlap of the boys and girls seasons.”

Despite the potential goofiness of the upcoming season, Pauls and the Cardinals will have high hopes — as always.

“Our expectations are always high,” Pauls said. “The first year I coached here in Middleton I had a conversation with then assistant Dave Borslien after graduating a bunch of seniors and falling in the state semis and I said, ‘So next year will be a bit of a rebuilding year?’ He quickly replied, ‘We don't rebuild, we just reload.’ ”

This year, the Cardinals are happy to be restarting.

What happens from here is just gravy.

 

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