Girls soccer team falls in sectional finals

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MTT News's picture
Rob Reischel
Emma Geppert and Middleton's girls soccer team reached the sectional finals, before falling to Kettle Moraine Saturday./Times-Tribune photo by Mary Langenfeld

The 90-minute sectional final was largely filled with frustration and disappointment.

The other two months of their 2015 campaign was a downright joyride.

Middleton’s girls soccer team fell one step short of the state tournament, dropping a 4-1 decision to visiting Kettle Moraine in a WIAA Division 1 sectional final Saturday.

But the Cardinals certainly didn’t leave Firefighter’s Park with their heads hung low. Instead, Middleton left filled with pride about a year that was packed with success and surprises.

“Our expectation is always state and I thought this could be our year,” Middleton senior midfielder Megan Sullivan said. “But this was a great season for us. I don’t think there were many people that thought we’d do as good as we did.”

That’s for sure.

The Cardinals graduated 10 seniors from their 2014 team, but never missed a beat.

Middleton won a second straight Big Eight Conference title. The Cardinals earned the No. 1 seed in their half of the sectional.

And Middleton came within one step of state.

“To win the Big Eight two years in a row is really tough to do,” said Middleton coach Mary Duffy, whose team finished the year 14-7-5. “Basically, these girls just worked their tails off. Nothing came easy.

“They earned their seed and homefield in the playoffs and they almost made it to state. It was a great year.”

It sure was. But the Cardinals couldn’t get past a deep and gifted side from Kettle Moraine.

The Lasers (16-3-3) had a unique blend of size, speed, strength and skill. And Kettle Moraine used it to stymie a Middleton squad that had posted an impressive 4-0 win over Madison West in the sectional semifinals just 48 hours earlier.

Lasers senior forward Olivia Hively had a pair of goals, while senior forward Julia Zach and junior midfielder Chase Rehm also scored.

“They’re really good,” Duffy said of Kettle Moraine. “When they had opportunities, they finished. And we just didn’t finish ours.”

Hively got things started for the Lasers in the 10th minute when she outran a Middleton defender, then fired a rocket from straight on, 18 yards out. The ball was placed perfectly over the outstretched hands of Cardinals keeper Belle Gallegos and gave the Lasers a 1-0 lead.

“I was nervous, super nervous at the start,” Hively said. “So that was great to start strong. We just played our game and played great as a team.”

Kettle Moraine stretched its lead to 2-0 in the 19th minute when Zach found some space in the left flat. Gallegos committed, but lost, and Zach’s blast gave the Lasers a 2-0 lead.

Middleton closed within 2-1 in the 40th minute when Sullivan converted a free kick from 25 yards out. Sullivan’s shot was lobbed perfectly over the fingertips of Kettle Moraine keeper Jessica Hoppe.

“I’ve been working on those a lot,” Sullivan said of her free kick goal. “And I thought that would give us some momentum. But they were just very quick and very strong.”

And resilient.

Just 2 minutes, 24 seconds after Sullivan’s goal, Hively and the Lasers answered.

Hively took a perfect pass from Zach and converted from 10 yards out to give the Lasers a 3-1 lead just 3 minutes before halftime.

“That was a big goal,” Hively said. “It’s a totally different game at 3-1 instead of 2-1. We felt a lot better at halftime.”

On the flip side, Hively’s goal was a huge blow to Middleton just before the break.

“We got that goal and really needed to hold them,” Duffy said. “But they’re just relentless.”

Kettle Moraine finished the Cardinals off in the 65th minute when Rehm took a feed from Hively and found herself one-on-one with Gallegos. The Middleton keeper had no chance, and Rehm finished from 12 yards out. 

“I think we’re playing pretty well,” said Kettle Moraine coach William Loepfe. “Middleton was a quality team and we had a lot of opportunities and had some quality finishes.”

While the Lasers certainly impressed Saturday, the result did nothing to take away from the Cardinals’ terrific 2015 campaign.

“We didn’t know if it would be a building year or not,” Sullivan said. “We lost a lot of seniors (from 2014) and had some questions. But it was a great year for the program.”

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