Soccer Cards stunned in regional finals

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Lexey Grapentine (left) is comforted by Lexi Schultz after Middleton's loss to Verona in the regional finals./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

No one saw this coming.

Middleton’s girls soccer team seemed poised for a deep postseason run. The Cardinals seemed ready to reach the state tournament for the first time since 2013.

But that dream died last Saturday when ninth-seeded Verona stunned the top-seeded Cardinals, 1-0, in a WIAA Division 1 regional final.

“The season ended too quickly,” Middleton coach Mary Duffy said. “And looking back at it, it seems to have flown by and I am not sure where it all went. 

“Games came and went, goals for and against, slide tackles, headers, tears, sweat, hard work. It all seems like a blur in my head, and I wish I could slow down the fast paced picture flying through my head of all that this team went through this season.”

Most of what Middleton went through was certainly memorable.

The Cardinals won the Big Eight Conference title. They had lost just once since May. And they earned the No. 1 seed in their sectional.

But Verona didn’t perform like a No. 9 seed and handed Middleton a stunning loss. The Wildcats got a first half goal from Olivia Rawson and made that hold up.

“We knew Verona was not a No. 9 seed,” Duffy said. “Their record just didn't match their skill. And going into the post-season, they were on fire for what they needed to do.”

Middleton had several chances to keep its season alive, but just couldn’t finish.

Charlotte Dunn had an shot early on that missed by just inches. Kristen Reikersdorfer had a breakaway six yards from net and was tackled just before shooting.

And in the final minutes, Tessa Grywalsky fired a low shot to the left of the keeper, who made a save, bobbled it, then make a second save to deny the Cardinals.

Verona keeper Rachael Nelson was terrific throughout and finished with five saves.

“It was one of those games where we put everything out there, put all hearts, souls, skills, strategy, everything and we came up short,” Duffy said. “We had one moment of transitional weakness where Verona capitalized, but we had the better of the play, better of the opportunities, better of possession, better of the transitions into offense, and the goal just didn’t bounce our way.”

While the loss was certainly disheartening, Duffy had no regrets about the season.

“As I told them at the end, there is no more of this season, no more practices, no more games, no more pasta parties or warm-ups,” Duffy said. “And I know that the team wishes we could give the seniors just one more goal, one more game, one more practice. 

“But what won't end are the friendships, the connections, the team they formed. Those things endure even when we have run out of opponents to play. And while they all fought and played and worked hard at all the game aspects of the season, it will be the friends that they take with them into the future summer months and years.”

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