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Spring sports stuck in the mud


First the snow came — and refused to leave.

When there was finally a break on that front, the rains followed.

As far as springs go, this one has been a nightmare for coaches, athletes and the schedule makers.

And with most sports already a few games behind, the next six weeks will be a scramble. That’s because by mid- to late-May, all sports are into their postseasons.

“The problem is there’s an end date that we have to be done with everything with by,” Middleton athletic director Bob Joers said. “We’re trying to be creative … and we might have to eliminate some non-conference stuff. But it’s been a great challenge.”

Indeed it has.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the girls softball team had already postponed its first five games. The boys baseball team had postponed its first four contests.

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MHS golfers hope to reload


Tom Cabalka was flying across the Midwest Sunday afternoon.

And as Middleton’s boys golf coach saw snow from his airplane window, he had one thought.

“What is that stuff?” said Cabalka, who had spent the previous three months in Arizona. “I knew what I was coming back to, but I was also hoping I didn’t see that down there.”

Fat chance.

Golfers everywhere are getting a painfully late start this spring. And for Middleton, that’s doubly bothersome.

Not only are the Cardinals extremely anxious to get rolling. Middleton also has 60% of its lineup to replace and was hoping for a proper amount of time to figure things out.

The Cardinals’ first match of the year is scheduled for Monday. But the odds of that happening are similar to cashing in that Powerball ticket you’re holding.

“It’s not great timing,” Cabalka said of the rotten spring. “We’ve got more questions than we ever had.”

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Soccer Cards thinking big


The No. 1 goal is pretty simple.

And if it happens, the rest will likely take care of themselves.

“Score, score and score some more,” Middleton’s girls soccer coach Mary Duffy said.

The Cardinals begin their season April 11 at Beloit Memorial. And Middleton’s top focus will be developing a more consistent offense than it had a year ago.

Middleton went 11-9-4 last season and reached the sectional finals before falling to Madison West. Just think what those Cardinals could have done with a dependable offense.

Middleton averaged 2.0 goals per game. But the Cardinals were shutout on eight occasions and had one goal in eight more games.

So in 16 of the Cardinals’ 24 games (66.7%) they had one goal or fewer.

Middleton, which finished second to Verona in the Big Eight Conference last year, took some hits in graduation. But the Cardinals return a solid nucleus and should contend again for the league’s top spot.

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Tennis Cardinals aiming high


There are still some question marks.

A few balls in the air (pardon the pun).

But when things settle, this much is certain: Middleton should have one of the state’s top boys tennis teams again.

The Cardinals are scheduled to open the season Tuesday at Beloit Memorial. And Middleton will have its third coach in as many years, as Deke Bradley takes over the program.

But despite the repeated turnover, the Cardinals should again be a force.

“I've yet to discuss our teams goals with the kids,” said Bradley, who also coaches Middleton’s girls team. “But if it were only up to me, I would say win our conference and qualify for team state would definitely be goals on the list.”

Those certainly seem realistic.

Middleton has won its sectional and reached the state tournament four straight years and five of the last six. The Cardinals have also won the Big Eight Conference four consecutive seasons and seven of the last eight.

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Baseball Cardinals have high hopes


Tom Schmitt looks at the forecast. It’s bleak, as it’s been all spring.

Schmitt sees snow all around his baseball diamond.

And Middleton’s baseball manager is sure of one thing.

“We’re not going to start on time this year,” Schmitt said of the Cardinals’ scheduled opener with Beloit Memorial on April 2.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that when Middleton finally gets started, the Cardinals should be a formidable outfit again.

Middleton went 20-8 last year and finished in third place in the Big Eight Conference. Those Cardinals also reached the WIAA Division 1 state quarterfinals, where they lost to Hartford.

Middleton has a solid nucleus back from that group and should be in the hunt for conference and postseason success again.

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Softball Cards aiming for turnaround

Arin Oppermann was in mid-sentence.

Middleton’s third-year girls softball coach had already discussed the strengths of her team. Oppermann talked how last year’s weaknesses could be corrected.

Then Oppermann stopped midstream and proclaimed this year’s motto.

“It’s about time,” Oppermann said.

Middleton’s softball community couldn’t agree more.

In Oppermann’s first two years, the Cardinals are 19-26 overall and 16-19 in the Big Eight Conference. Middleton finished eighth in the league last year and fifth in 2011.

Oppermann hopes this is the year her team begins to resemble past Middleton outfits that dominated the Big Eight and were an annual challenger for the state tournament.

“These are awesome girls,” Oppermann said. “And with this group, we believe we have the talent and the parts to make a jump in the standings.

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Boys track team thinking big

Since they entered his program back in the spring of 2010, Isaac Mezera knew this could be a special season.

Now, that young core of standouts has grown up. And Mezera, Middleton’s boys track and field coach, is giddy about what awaits this spring.

“I've been waiting for this group to be seniors for three years,” Mezera said. “I knew it might be our best shot at a conference title.”

Middleton is coming off an impressive season in which it won a regional title and was runner-up at sectionals. Currently, there are about 125 athletes on the team, which is up about 15 from last spring.

“The early outlook is we should be a better team than we were last year, which is saying something,” Mezera said.

Middleton’s top athletes figure to be senior Steven Harris and junior Ernest Winters.

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Girls track team hopes to shine

There aren’t as many returnees as Tara Franklin is used to having.

But that doesn’t mean expectations will be lowered one bit for Middleton’s girls track and field team this spring.

The Cardinals opened their season last Saturday at the Whitewater Invitational. And while Middleton may not have the proven veterans of past years, the program is always bustling with talent.

That means another year of high hopes for Franklin and her team.

“I think we have a very good chance of being top three in the conference again,” Franklin said. “Where it will play out is how some of our newer athletes help us to fill in the gaps.”

Middleton has a terrific group of returning distance runners. The Cardinals, meanwhile, are still looking for some answers in the field events.

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Kollasch named new boys soccer coach at MHS

Ben Kollasch is — and always has been — deeply invested in Middleton’s boys soccer program.

Kollasch watched his four older brothers play at Middleton in the 1980s. Kollasch later became an MHS standout himself, and helped lead the Cardinals to the state tournament in 1993 and ’94.

And Kollasch has coached in the Middleton program since 1996.

So it’s safe to say that Middleton got one of its own recently, when Kollasch was named the new coach at MHS. Kollasch replaces Ken Burghy, who was Middleton’s head coach the past 29 years, but retired following the 2012 season.

“It probably means more to me than it would to any other person in the world,” Kollasch said of taking over the Cardinals’ program. “I looked up to MHS soccer players as heroes while growing up.

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Middleton stays ahead of the curve

For nearly two decades now, the athletic programs at Middleton High School have been the envy of the Big Eight Conference — and most of the state, for that matter.

It’s one thing to be the best, though, and another to stay on top.

In an effort to remain a step ahead of the competition, Middleton hired Brad Rogeberg and Steve Myrland last fall as part-time strength and conditioning coaches. The duo has implemented fitness plans to enhance the performance and development of Middleton athletes in all sports.

“They’ve been a great combo,” Middleton athletic director Bob Joers said. “Everybody has worked together in-season and out of season, and at the end, it gives you a better athlete. It’s exciting, especially how it’s taken off.”

Middleton is the first school in the Big Eight to hire strength and conditioning coaches, and is one of just a handful in the state to have such a position inside its athletic department.


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