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Sauk Prairie girls' soccer poised for successful campaign


March 28, 2019

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Sauk Prairie girls' soccer co-captains Ella Schad (left) and Kelsey Selden

Juniors Ella Schad and Kelsey Selden have a connection on and off the soccer pitch.

That makes their recent selection as co-captains for the Sauk Prairie girls' soccer team this season a natural decision for coach Mike Rauls.

"We've been playing together since kindergarten," said Schad, who like Selden earned Badger North Conference first-team honors for the first time a year ago.

Added Selden: "We play on the same club team so we have a connection. We're excited to be captains together."

The Eagles (15-5-2) outscored their opponents 53-18 and gave up three goals or more in a game just once – in their season finale when the fourth-seeded Eagles were upset by visiting fifth-seeded Burlington 3-1 in a WIAA Division 2 regional final.

Sauk Prairie hasn't won a regional title since 2011, when it was seeded first in Division 2 and suffered a 5-0 loss to Madison Edgewood in the sectional final.

But the premature ending to their season a year ago has the Eagles eager to get the new season off and running with higher aspirations this spring.

"The girls are excited," Rauls said. "Our numbers are growing. We've got over 50 girls in the program right now. That excites us. We'll have a JV Red and a JV Black team.

"We hope that will translate into us moving up in the conference. We talked about it last year, getting by the Mount Horebs and getting by the Waunakees and that is really a deep-set goal this year. As our numbers go up, our program's going in the right direction."

Sauk Prairie graduated four seniors – co-captains Isabelle Jelinek and Claire Selden and along with Maggie Harter and Molly Pistono, who will be difficult to replace.

However, the Eagles return five all-conference players, including senior Cam Ballweg, a two-time, second-team selection at forward.

But Rauls said the team has a difficult task in replacing Jelinek, a three-time all-league first-team selection as a defender, and Pistono, a two-year starter and second-team all-conference goalkeeper last season.

The return of senior defender Taylor Breininger and senior midfielder Riley Breunig (2 goals, 3 assists), who both received honorable mention all-conference honors a year ago, will help.

"Hopefully, defense will be a strength again this year but it was where we suffered our heaviest losses," Rauls said. "That's where we've got to re-tool."

Sauk Prairie finished the conference season in third place with a 5-2 mark, trailing only league champion Mount Horeb (7-0) and runner-up Waunakee (6-1).

Selden said the Eagles are committed to making the next step in their pursuit of a conference title and postseason success.

"We're already working hard," Selden said. "I can tell the difference already from last year, the work we're putting in. We're pushing each other so much more. I'm really excited to see where it takes us."

A top priority will be finding a replacement in goal for Pistono, who finished with 94 saves and six shutouts last season.

Rauls said while the Eagles could give up more goals this year, an experienced attack will provide more offense.

Yet, he likes the competition the team will have in finding someone to start in goal.

"We have Bridget Fabian and Maddie Ganshert both returning," said of the team's back-up goalkeepers from a year ago, who finished with 17 and three saves, respectively.

"Until we get outside and evaluate those two, it's hard to say who's going to earn the lion's share of those minutes. But they both will contribute in goal."

Another major change will be moving Schad from midfield to center-back to take over for Jelinek, who anchored the defense for four seasons.

Schad ranked second on the team in goals (10) and assists (5) and was third in points (25) along with recording two game-winning goals last season.

"What's best for the team is that Ella will move back and take over at center-back, and she's all in," Rauls said. "She's one of the best girls I've ever seen at attacking balls in mid-air.

"We'll bring her forward on set pieces and corner kicks but hopefully she can anchor the middle of our defense this year."

Schad said she is excited about making the move for the Eagles.

"It will be a change for high school, but that's where I play for club season," she said. "I play defense. It's just going to be with a different group of girls."

Rauls said the Eagles plan to run a similar scheme from last season.

"We'll talk to the captains and work it out," he said. "We have to find some bodies for the midfield, but I think we'll play a 3-5-2 against at least to start.

"But hopefully, we can be flexible. If that doesn't work, we have the personnel to do something different."

Joining Schad on defense are expected to be seniors Katie Mack and Breininger.

"Hopefully they will duplicate the success they had last year," Rauls said. "Taylor is primarily an outside defender and is a beast to get around."

Seniors Lauren Frosch and Katie Yanke and juniors Macy Breunig (2 goals, 4 assists) and Leah Weigel will also compete for minutes on defense.

But Rauls said midfield is also a concern.

"That is where we will have some holes," he said. "Ainsley Apel returns, and Jordan O'Connor is back after taking a year off to focus on hockey, which is her number one sport. But she will be in the mix somewhere.

"Riley (Breunig) is also in the midfield and is good in space. She'll have a strong senior year. Macy Breunig will also be in the mix somewhere. She can run well."

Rauls said moving Selden from forward to midfield is a possibility or freshman Katelyn Fishnick, who is expected to make a big impact this season, could earn playing time at midfield.

Selden led the team in goals (14), points (29) and game-winning goals (5) a year ago.

"One of those two will likely be in the midfield," Rauls said of Selden and Fishnick. "One will be up top. But midfield is a question mark right now."

The returning of Ballweg, a three-time letterwinner, at forward will also provide a boost for the offense. She led the team in assists (8), was second in points (26) and game-winning goals (4) and third in goals (9) last year.

"Kelsey and Cam both have 27 goals in their careers, Cam in three years and Kelsey in two years," Rauls said. "We'll have some offensive firepower, for sure."

Rauls said he likes what he has seen so far heading into the season-opener against Dodgeville on April 2 at 7 p.m. The Eagles open their conference season hosting Reedsburg on April 11 at 7 p.m.

"Their enthusiasm is through the roof right now," Rauls said. "They want to be good. They practice hard. They practice with enthusiasm. They are having some fun and getting after it. We're excited and ready to go."

Schad agreed.

"It should be a successful season," she said. "From my perspective, I think it will be the best one in our high school careers so far. I'm hoping that's the outcome.

"We have a core group who will be on the field playing a lot. But we also have a lot of freshmen who can fill spots."

2019 Sauk Prairie soccer

Head coach: Mike Rauls.

Assistant coaches: Jacob Breunig (varsity), Patrick Leigh (JV Red), Melissa Klemm (JV Black), Laila Drescher (volunteer).

Athletic Trainer: Megan Heimerdinger.

Co-captains: Ella Schad, Kelsey Selden.

Sauk Prairie returning varsity players

Seniors – Camryn Ballweg, F; Taylor Breininger, D; Riley Breunig, MF; Bridget Fabian, GK; Lauren Frosch, D/MF; Katie Mack, D; Katie Yanke, D.

Juniors – Ainsley Apel, MF; Macy Breunig, D/MF; Jordan O'Connor, MF; Ella Schad, MF/D; Kelsey Selden, F; Leah Weigel, D.

Sophomores – Maddie Ganshert, GK.

Key losses – Isabelle Jelinek, D; Maggie Harter, MF; Molly Pistono, GK; Claire Selden, F/MF.


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