Seven soccer players named all-Big Eight

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Rob Reischel
Middleton freshman Victoria Bunz (14) was named honorable-mention all-Big Eight./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

Before the 2018 girls’ soccer season began, Middleton head coach Mary Duffy gathered her seniors together.

Duffy, who’s been in the program 13 years and has been the Cardinals’ head coach for eight, had a simple message.

“I said, ‘This is your season. You set the tone,’ ” Duffy recalled. “I’ll be here next year for another one, but this is your last. How do you want it to be?”

Turns out, it was a memorable one.

Middleton won a second straight Big Eight Conference title and climbed to the No. 1 spot in the state rankings. The Cardinals eventually were knocked off in the sectional semifinals, but their bevy of achievements left quite an impression on the voters for all-Big Eight Conference honors.

Middleton senior forward Lexi Schultz, sophomore midfielder Tyler Wilson and junior defender Emily Raisleger were all named first-team all-Big Eight. Junior midfielder Danielle Martin and senior keeper Caroline Powers were named second-team all-conference, while freshman forward Victoria Bunz and senior defender Emily Duecker were both named honorable-mention all-Big Eight.

“Sometimes the seasons blend into each other. They get repetitive or ordinary,” Duffy said. “This season was far from ordinary. It was more than stats or rankings or accomplishments. It was more than the hours spent at practices or the buckets of sweat poured into each task. 

“It was not merely another season like I alluded to when I pulled these seniors aside at the end of March. What these players created is something many teams wish they had. What they created was something that we all wanted to be apart of, something we all wanted to see flourish and grow and dominate.”

For the most part, the Cardinals did dominate and were rewarded in the all-conference voting.

Schultz was one of the fastest and most tireless players the program has ever seen. Dubbed “The Energizer Bunny” by Duffy, Schultz put an immense amount of pressure on foes all 90 minutes.

Schultz finished with 10 goals, five assists and had three game-winning goals. The three-year varsity member played every position at MHS except goalie and had a senior year few will ever forget.

“Lexi was a thrill to watch play up top this year, pouring her heart and soul into practice, games and her teammates — things we cannot coach,” Duffy said. “She plays with such passion and was so crucial to our success this year. She was one of those players who could do it all. 

“She is fast and athletic and blew by people. She was one of our most physical and tenacious forwards, so dangerous that at times, teams put two people to mark her even when she didn't have the ball, leaving our other dangerous forwards open. Her presence on the field made teams adjust their play. She was speedy and fast, but calm and composed when we needed her.”

Wilson was a second-team all-conference player as a freshman, then received first-team all-league honors this year. Wilson finished the season with 14 goals, two game-winning goals and eight assists for a team-high 36 points.

Wilson finished first among midfielders in the all-Big Eight voting, which put her in the running for league Player of the Year honors that eventually went to Verona’s Chandler Bainbridge.

“Tyler was one of those players on our team this year that we needed her presence in games,” Duffy said. “She is often a game changer in her play and she has the ability to make other defenders and teams look silly in how they are defending her. 

“Tyler has the best foot skills in tight situations of anyone else in the Big Eight Conference. She stepped up in games taking on an opponent’s defense and was always persistent in the attack, which is one of her strengths, her persistence. She will continue to be a force to be reckoned with as a junior and senior.”

Raisleger earned first-team honors after receiving honorable-mention honors in 2017. Raisleger was Middleton’s leader in back, helping the Cardinals allow just three goals in nine conference games.

“She was a vital part of our defense … from her tenacious, tough, physical style of defense to her pump up shouts on the field encouraging and pushing her teammates to the next level,” Duffy said of Raisleger. “When Emily left the field people noticed.

“When she was on the field people noticed because of the work she does defensively winning balls, fighting mercilessly against the other teams top attackers, and at times bulldozing herself out of tight spots and connecting passes with our forwards and midfielder.”

Martin finished the year with five goals and two assists, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. As Duffy said, “Our possession almost always goes through Dani.”

Martin was the key to the Cardinals’ attack in the middle of the field — both offensively and defensively. And Duffy know she’s fortunate to have one year left with Martin helping to lead MHS.

“She is one of our smartest players who knows what we need without the coaches instructions,” Duffy said of Martin. “She makes in-the-moment decisions that tactically keep our team in the game and to maintain our dominance in the middle of the field. 

“Often times teams overlook her presence because she is not flashy or loud, but her quiet leadership and impact on the field is top notch and something that we have come to depend on this team. She was a consistent player that we rarely subbed.”

Powers had a terrific season, making the routine saves and notching several memorable ones, as well.

In Middleton’s huge regular season over Madison West, Powers made the save of the season, diving horizontally and tipping the ball around a post to save what everyone on the West side was celebrating as a goal. Powers made several big saves in Middleton’s playoff loss to Janesville Craig and was key in the Cardinals’ allowing just three conference goals.

“Caroline Powers had her best, complete year … and made one of the biggest impacts on our season,” Duffy said. “She made spectacular saves … and she was vocal, consistent and a presence on the field that commanded respect and to be listened to. 

“A team always wants their leader to be one that sees the whole field, which would make it the goalie's job to direct and communicate and lead on the field. Caroline did a fantastic job of leading her team to a second straight Big Eight Conference title. Caroline set out after last season to make this one her best and she worked extremely hard in the offseason to end her career at Middleton with a fantastic season.”

Bunz had a sensational freshman season with 13 goals and seven assists for 33 points. Bunz also had five game-winning goals, including one against Sun Prairie in the conference title game and another in the 87th minute against Madison Memorial.

“She gave us consistent play as an outside forward with speed, tenacity and poise in front of the goal,” Duffy said. “We look forward to seeing her tear up the Big Eight as an offensive threat for the next three years.”

Duecker, a four-year varsity member, played in all 18 games and helped lead the Cardinals’ vaunted defense. Duecker also played several other positions and scored a goal.

“Emily Duecker is a key leader on our team,” Duffy said. “With her speed and knowledge of the game, she has the ability to play almost any position, even though for the past few years we have kept her in our defense. However that didn't stop her from sneaking into the attack from defense and at times, playing forward if we needed her there.

“She is one of our rocks in the back, with the calmness and composed leadership she added to the game. The maturity and strength and passion for the game and her teammates you see now is what she consistently gave us from the moment she put on the varsity jersey.

“Duecker is one of our captains this year and led on and off the field. She led effortlessly, compassionately and selflessly. This season, we talked a lot about winning each moment and how do we do that. Duecker, went out there every moment of the game, practice, off the field, leading this team and won those moments to help make this one of the best seasons I can remember.”




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