Soccer Cardinals fall in sectional semis

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Anna Mintz and Middleton's girls soccer team lost to Janesville Craig in the sectional semifinals on June 6. Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

That sentiment by the great Dr. Seuss makes plenty of sense in theory. And down the road, Middleton’s brilliant 2018 girls’ soccer team may be able to look back and smile.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, though, last Wednesday was more about tears.

Middleton suffered a painful 1-0 loss to visiting Janesville Craig in a WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal. The top-seeded Cardinals lost for the first time in 2018 to a team from Wisconsin and finished their year 13-2-3, while the fourth-seeded Cougars improved to 12-3-4.

Afterwards, Middleton’s players were both stunned and saddened that the end had arrived for this remarkably special group.

“It’s hard to lose and you just don’t expect it,” said Middleton senior forward Lexi Schultz, a tireless performer who gave a memorable effort in defeat. “That’s kind of what sucks about it, is that you’re just not mentally prepared for it.

“I’ve also been on this team for three years and this year is by far my favorite. Just how we work together. We always have each other’s backs, not in just a soccer way either. We were always there for each other.”

Senior keeper Caroline Powers agreed.

“This game was there for us and we just couldn't get it,” Powers said. “It’s too bad because I thought this team could go a long way. 

“It was a great team and for one reason or another, we just really connected and we grew to love each other. We took everything step by step and we never planned too far ahead.”

The Cardinals’ utopian plan, of course, was to play in this weekend’s state tournament.  But Craig had other ideas.

Middleton held a whopping 18-6 advantage on shots on goal and peppered Craig keeper Maia Rowekamp with 13 shots on goal in the second half. Middleton also held a 6-0 advantage on corner kicks.

But the Cardinals simply couldn’t break through against a Cougars team that marked extremely well and packed the box much of the second half.

“Honestly, it’s hard to see the scoreboard when you have 18 shots and no goals and they only have six and they get one in,” Middleton coach Mary Duffy said. “I think we could have followed up on a few of them, but honestly, things just did not bounce our way.”

Craig got the bounce it needed in the 37th minute when it had perfect execution of a set piece.

Senior Kaitlyn Shanks received a long, perfectly placed free kick from sophomore Hannah Dunlavy. Shanks got her head on the ball and Middleton’s Powers got a hand on the ball, as well. But Shanks’ shot found its way into the back of the net on the far left post giving the Cougars a 1-0 lead.

“She didn’t surprise me because I know she’s a good player,” Powers said of Shanks. “But to watch the ball go its way and have half my palm cover it, it’s … I did what I could. That’s one of the runs they made successfully.”

Middleton had plenty of golden opportunities in the second half.

In the 52nd minute, junior midfielder Danielle Martin and sophomore midfielder Tyler Wilson had terrific shots in front following a corner kick. But Rowekamp made the initial save and Craig forward Abby Membrino made a save off the line.

Freshman forward Victoria Bunz had a pair of chances in the 62nd and 63rd minutes and Schultz had a good look following a well-placed corner kick in the 68th minute. Sophomore midfielder Cami Malak and Martin had chances in the 72nd and 79th minutes, but both failed to hit the mark.

Middleton’s last, best chance came in the 88th minute when junior defender Emily Raisleger had a shot on goal from point blank range, but Craig’s Rowekamp made another big save.

Through it all, the relentless and speedy Schultz attacked the Cougars with gusto, drawing two and three defenders to help free up her teammates. But with Craig having at least five defenders back the entire second half — and adding to that total as time wound down — scoring became a greater challenge for Schultz and the Cardinals.

“I’m just more upset than exhausted,” Schultz said. “I could have made so many shots and it’s just hard to know that at least one of them didn’t go in. It just didn’t.

“It’s hard to know that, not necessarily that you’re the better team, but you just can’t get it in. And at the end of the day, I know we tried our best and I tried my best and we left it all on this field.”

The Cardinals put everything they had into their sensational season, winning the Big Eight Conference for the second straight year and at one point, climbing to No. 1 in the state rankings.

Middleton will undoubtedly smile about that at a later date. But regardless of what Dr. Seuss said, last Wednesday was a night for tears.

“Through and through from No. 0 (Emelie Gehrke-Kallstromer) to No. 24 (Victoria Zander), this is the most impressive group,” Duffy said. “I’ve never seen a team gel and just be on the same page like they have.

“One of our quotes was, ‘Don’t try to be the best on the team. Be the best for the team.’ And they have really taken that to heart. It’s too bad they don’t get to keep playing.”


June 6

WIAA Division 1 sectional semifinal

Janesville Craig 1, Middleton 0

Janesville Craig …………. 1 0 — 1

Middleton ………………… 0 0 — 0

First Half

C—Kaitlyn Shanks (Hannah Dunlavy), 36:31.

Saves—Abbey Schrader (C) 5, Maia Rowekamp (C) 13, Powers (M) 5. Shots—Craig 10, Middleton 21. Corner kicks—Craig 0, Middleton 6. Fouls—Craig 16, Middleton 16. Offsides—Craig 3, Middleton 0.


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