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Heights punches ticket to state

Vanguards reach state for first time in school history

 

June 14, 2018

Photo contributed

The Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld girls soccer team (above) celebrates after clinching the first-ever trip to state in school history. Below, keeper Destinee Schmidt was instrumental in helping the Vanguards reach the state tournament.

The chant was started by one of the Wisconsin Heights/Barneveld fans shortly after halftime of the Vanguards' WIAA Division 4 sectional final against Lake Country Lutheran's co-op last Saturday.

"I believe. I believe that we. I believe that we will win."

The WH/B crowd of more than 150 answered with, "I believe that we will win. I believe that we will win."

The WH/B girl players did exactly that.

The Vanguards edged LCL in a game played in Lomira, 1-0, and clinched their first-ever trip to the state tournament.

WH/B (12-4) received the No. 4 seed at the state tournament and will play top-seeded Cedar Grove-Belgium (15-1-1) in a state semifinal Friday at 11 a.m. at Uihlein Soccer Park in Milwaukee. The state championship game is Saturday at 4:30 p.m.

"Our young defense played very solid and did a great job deflecting and stopping their attacks," Vanguards coach Bartlett Holmes said. "Our keeper, Destiny Schmidt, was a wall. She played the game of her life during the biggest game of our program's history. I am not surprised though. Her game has been progressing to make the plays we saw today."

LCL had participated in the last six state tournaments - losing in the championship game in 2017 and 2015, and winning a state title in 2012. But a relatively young and wide-eyed WH/B team held firm against the seasoned and experienced LCL team.

LCL held a significant advantage in time of possession, corner kicks, and shots on goal (12-8), but the WH/B defense and goalkeeping came up big when needed.

The first half ended in a scoreless tie. Both teams had good attacks, but were ultimately stopped by good defensive play.

One minute into the second half, sophomore striker Kelsi Handel was tripped while attacking the LCL goal. Senior center midfielder Karlee Adler took the direct free kick from 35 yards out and put a perfectly placed shot below the crossbar and above the outstretched hands of the LCL goalie to score the eventual game-winner.

From there, the Vanguards held on and notched the biggest win in program history.

"Karlee continued her clutch and very strong play," Holmes said. "What an amazing kick.

"We were challenged by a very good LCL team to find scoring chances, but this free kick was the difference. It took our all around team effort, our desire to outwork and outhustle a very good Lake Country Lutheran team to get our program into the state semifinals."

Heights also edged Mayville, 2-1, in the sectional semifinals last Thursday.

Mayville started the scoring 16 minutes into the game off a well placed free kick from about 30 yards out, just over the outstretched fingertips of WH/B goalie Schmidt.

Both teams were able to coordinate good attacks, but the defenses prevailed until three minutes before halftime. Vanguards sophomore striker Kassidy Frame dribbled down the right side of the field and through several Mayville defenders to launch a hard driven kick through the Mayville goalie's hands. The ball crossed the goal line before the goalie could bring it back, which knotted the score, 1-1.

The second half was dominated by strong defensive play on both sides until just 3 ½ minutes remained in regulation. Karlee Adler sent a long throw-in into the Mayville penalty box with the Cardinals' defender receiving the ball with her outstretched arm and called for a handling penalty. Freshmen defender Hana King calmly put the penalty kick in the corner of the goal for the game winner and punched WH/B's ticket into the sectional final match.

The fact the Vanguards are headed to state is the ultimate Cinderella story.

Several years ago, the program was on life-support as the district considered eliminating it due to financial reasons. But the School board eventually voted to keep the program alive, and it has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years.

Now, WH/B is in the midst of the greatest season in program history.

And amazingly, the Vanguards now find themselves just two wins from a state title.

 
 

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