Verona ousts soccer Cardinals

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Dalina Jonuzi and Middleton’s girls soccer team fell to Verona in a regional semifinal on June 8./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

They played their best game of the season at the most opportune time.

They were prepared, focused and extremely driven.

In the end, though, it wasn’t quite enough.

Middleton’s girls soccer team dropped a 1-0 decision to host Verona in a WIAA Division 1 regional semifinal on June 8. After more than 82 minutes of scoreless soccer, the Wildcats notched the game-winner in the 83rd minute.

Middleton finished the season 7-6-2, while Verona (9-3-1) knocked off top-seeded Waunakee in a regional final last Thursday.

“I have never seen a group of girls more prepared,” Middleton coach Mary Duffy said. “We knew from how this half of the sectional was divided out that we had a difficult challenge even if we had gotten a home game. 

“It is a very competitive and stacked half of the sectional, and it showed from the moment we stepped onto the field for warmups. We were very focused even in the humid hot area on a turf field, which is always hotter because of the sun beating on it. They were ready on the bus, in the warmup and battled through the entire game.”

Verona had the better of things in the first half, but couldn't score.

Defenders Ella D’Orazio, Victoria Bunz, Anna Mintz and Jessica Mael were stellar in back. And after Verona scored five goals against the Cardinals on May 27, the Wildcats struggled to find the back of the net in the rematch.

“Since our shift in formation late in the season, we had been battling much better as a whole team and stifled lots of their opportunities that Verona had the first time we played,” Duffy said. “(The defenders) gave us a better ability to move out of the back and prevent the numerous crosses, shots, corners Verona had during our first match up.”

In addition, keeper Ainsley Casper had a brilliant game and finished with 10 saves.

“Casper made some phenomenal saves that kept the game close, some point blank reaction saves,” Duffy said. “She was diving left, right, bouncing everywhere to give our team a fighting chance with Verona's attacking shape.”

In the second half, Middleton moved Bunz up top and tried throwing some of its fastest players — such as Dalina Jonuzi, Marley Mladucky, Devan Utter and Annika Hallquist — at Verona.

“We put Verona on their heels,” Duffy said. “While Verona had the better of play during the first half, we came out strong especially in the second half and Verona was shifting their defense to help steady themselves.”

Mladucky sent in a cross at 75-minute mark and Jonuzi was able to get a header on it 6 yards in front of the net. The shot went high, though.

“Mladucky and Jonuzi combined well and worked hard to get behind Verona and at one point had Verona re-arranging their back line because of their effectiveness in breaking down the defense,” Duffy said. 

Shortly after Jonuzi's header, Bunz dribbled from the left back through the entire Verona midfield and almost the entire back line, but sent a shot just wide.  

In the 83rd minute, though, Verona broke through and took a 1-0 lead.

Middleton stayed on the attack, forcing Verona’s keeper to make a big save in the final minutes. The Cardinals also sent a ball off the crossbar, but couldn’t find a way to score.

“At the end of those 90 minutes, every single player had put every ounce of energy and heart into this game and I couldn't be more proud of this team for bringing their best game when it really mattered,” Duffy said.

After a crazy two-year stretch in which the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID and the schedule was condensed in 2021, Duffy hated to say goodbye to her 10 seniors. But she was also thankful for their time together.

“It is difficult to say goodbye to these seniors,” Duffy said. “It feels way too early to do so, in part because they didn't have a junior year, and then to exit sooner from postseason than we would like also makes it difficult, but mostly because we are losing 10 lovely, fantastic, talented, compassionate people from our team, our family. 

“We talk often when we have senior night that it will not be the stats we remember from these players but their impact on our lives as human beings. It is their heart and character that we will miss. We will miss their leadership. 

“We will miss them off the field as well because they brought much needed communication, leadership qualities that are not measured in goals or foot skills, but in how they support each other, take care of each other, laugh and cheer with each other. I cannot teach those skills; each group brings them to the team to help make this a team atmosphere and not an individual support and these seniors had double duty with sophomore and freshman that needed that leadership. 

“Of course, we were upset that we lost, but mainly it was the friendships that will be missed. And to have those develop in such a short, crazy, hectic season, speaks volumes to the character this team has, that these seniors brought.”



Middleton ……………. 0 0 — 0

Verona ………………. 0 1 — 1

Second half — V: Albert (Poppen), 82:30.

Saves: Mid (Casper) 10; V (Queoff) 4.


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