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Sauk Prairie's 'Best of the Best'


July 4, 2019

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Sauk Prairie's girls soccer team came within one game of the state tournament and earned the Star News' 'Team of the Year' honors.

Sauk Prairie's girls sports teams were competitive in Badger North Conference action and at the state level, too, during the 2018-19 past school year.

But before we head into the 2019-20 school year, let's review some of the Eagles' stellar achievements from last year.

Team of the Year: Soccer

They were oh, so close.

But it was also a painful end of the season for the girls' soccer team, which lost to Oregon in a WIAA Division 2 sectional final after finishing second in the competitive Badger North Conference and winning its first regional championship since 2011.

But Eagles' coach Mike Rauls couldn't have been prouder.

"What a tremendous, tremendous bunch of girls," Rauls said of his team, which finished the season 20-2-2. "They've achieved a lot. This is really hard for them, losing in a sectional final. To have confidence to go toe-to-toe with Oregon in the first half was really good. That was some really good soccer."

Although Sauk Prairie refused to back down with its second WIAA state appearance and first since 1999 within reach, Oregon held on for a 1-0 victory. The Panthers went on to win the state title in a shootout.

While reaching the state tournament was a goal that eluded the Eagles, Sauk Prairie outscored its opponents, 107-13, this season - which included 16 shutouts in 24 games.

A 7-4 victory over visiting Monona Grove in the sectional semifinals also capped a near perfect season on the Eagles' home field where Sauk Prairie posted a 10-0-1 record this season.

When juniors Ella Schad and Kelsey Selden were elected as co-captains before the season, the Sauk Prairie duo set out to make a difference. Schad and Selden did that and more, making adjustments in their style of play and taking on different roles to make it one of the most successful seasons in program history.

They were also recognized along with freshman scoring sensation Katelyn Fishnick on the All-Badger North Conference first team.

Earning second-team honors were senior forward Camryn Ballweg, freshman midfielder Faith Holler and senior goalkeeper Bridget Fabian. Junior midfielder Macy Breunig received honorable mention recognition.

The best could be yet to come, though, for the Eagles, who don't plan on taking a step back next season.

Sauk Prairie graduated seven seniors - Ballweg, Riley Breunig, Taylor Breininger, Fabian, Lauren Frosch, Katie Mack and Katie Yanke - who Rauls admitted will be difficult to replace.

Yet the program returns 14 of its 21 varsity players, including five all-conference selections, next season.

"We had 20 wins and two losses to Waunakee and Oregon, who both went to state," Rauls said. "That's pretty solid. We just had a tremendous year."

Also nominated for the award were: swimming and tennis.

Outstanding Performance of the Year: Swimming - 200-yard freestyle relay

Mariah Chao and Grace Williams fulfilled a dream to cap their senior seasons for the Eagles' swimming team.

The duo made the final appearance of their stellar prep swimming careers at the WIAA Division 2 girls' state meet at the University of Wisconsin Natatorium.

Chao led off and Williams anchored Sauk Prairie's 200-yard freestyle relay team that included freshman Kassandra Miller and sophomore Cora Dunnum and reached the podium with a fourth-place finish in a season-best time of 1 minute, 40.67 seconds.

"It was so emotional," said Williams, a team co-captain along with Chao. "I was absolutely stunned and crying with joy. I know that Mariah did, too. I couldn't stop hugging and smiling with everyone. It was absolutely the best feeling ever."

Added Chao: "I loved it especially seeing our third senior (Emma Breunig) timing for us. Everyone was supporting us. I saw a lot of tears when we got on the podium."

The Eagles just missed breaking into the top 10 in team scoring, tying for 11th with 74 points.

But Chao said the season was everything she had hoped for in her final year of competitive swimming.

"It was really exciting and emotional," Chao said of her final state appearance. "Especially it being our last year, to get fourth was amazing."

Edgewood won the 200 freestyle relay in 1:36.62, followed by Tomahawk (1:40.17) and Greendale (1:40.56), all coming out of the fast heat.

But Sauk Prairie coach Melani Guentherman had a good feeling about the Eagles' chances of improving on their ninth seed of 1:41.86 that placed them in the first heat, but in the middle lane.

"They swam really well," Guentherman said. "It was very exciting. All around, we had a great night."

Athlete of the Year: Camryn Ballweg, senior, tennis, basketball, soccer.

A recipient of a 12-season sports award, Ballweg was a letterwinner in all three sports, competing at No. 1 doubles for the second straight year in tennis, starting at point guard in basketball and starting at forward for the third straight season in soccer.

Ballweg began the year compiling an 18-7 record at No. 1 doubles with fellow senior Taylor Breininger. The duo placed second at the Badger Conference meet and finished second at the sectional tournament to earn a berth in the WIAA Division 1 individual state tournament.

A returning starter in basketball, Ballweg was sidelined for more than a month with a foot injury. But she returned to score four points and hand out four assists on 'Senior Night' and finished as the Eagles' assist leader with 2.1 per game.

Ballweg capped the year on the soccer team, earning Badger North Conference second team honors for the third consecutive year. She was second on the team with 16 goals, including a game-winner, third in points (40) and fifth in assists (8).

"She's been a forward for four years and a goal scorer," Rauls said of Ballweg. "She has been a great, tireless target for us up top with an absolute hammer."

Special mention goes to seniors Taylor Breininger, Katie Mack and Katie Yanke, who were also 12-season athletes in tennis, basketball and soccer.

Co-Newcomer of the Year: Katelyn Fishnick, freshman, soccer, basketball and Kassia Marquardt, freshman, cross country, basketball, track and field.

Fishnick spent most of the basketball season with the Eagles' top JV program and is expected to make an impact on the varsity team next season.

But while Mike Rauls and the rest of the soccer team's coaching staff expected Fishnick to emerge as a starter as a freshman, her ability to score early and often was a pleasant surprise.

"There aren't many teams who have an athlete like that," Rauls said.

Fishnick led the state with 45 goals and 103 points and was third on the team with 13 assists. She scored two goals or more in a game 13 times, including six goals in a 10-0 win at Milton, and accounted for 15 of the team's 20 game-winning goals.

"Katelyn ran circles around our varsity team three years ago as a sixth grader at one of our practices," Rauls said. "But I don't think any of us envisioned her scoring 45 goals as a freshman."

Marquardt began the year as one of the key performers on the cross country team, finishing as the Eagles' No. 2 runner and placing 28th overall at the Badger North Conference meet.

She began the basketball season on the top JV team, but eventually was promoted to the varsity team, averaging 2.0 points and 1.7 rebounds per game in a reserve role. She is expected to be one of the Eagles' key performers next season.

"She's done everything I've wanted," Sauk Prairie girls varsity basketball coach Amber Fiene said. "She stepped up and played tough for us. I'm excited to see what Kassia can grow into."

Marquardt capped off a stellar freshman season in track and field as a member of Sauk Prairie's 3,200-meter relay team that placed fourth at the conference meet. She also placed ninth in the 800- and 10th in the 1,600-meter runs at conference.

Also nominated were: Faith Holler, freshman, soccer and Quinlyn Mack, freshman, tennis.

Coach of the Year: Mike Rauls, soccer.

Having been around the block a few times, head coach Mike Rauls had an inkling 2019 would be a special season.

"Their enthusiasm is through the roof right now," Rauls said during the preseason back in March. "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."

No kidding.

That was evident all season as Sauk Prairie not only won five more games than it did a year ago, but gave rivals Waunakee and Mount Horeb all they could handle in finishing in second place in the Badger North Conference with a 5-1-1 record in league play.

The Eagles (20-2-2) doubled their scoring output of 53 goals a year ago with 107 this season, while also allowing just 13 goals, five fewer than a year ago.

While Sauk Prairie fell short of a much-coveted conference title and trip to state, there was much to be proud of for the Eagles, who played with a passion for the game, fostered an unselfish, team-first attitude and shared a love for each other.

Leading the way was the Eagles' stellar coaching staff of Rauls, veteran assistant coach Jacob Breunig, JV Red coach Patrick Leigh, JV Black coach Melissa Klemm and volunteer assistant Laila Drescher.

Senior goalkeeper Bridget Fabian summed up what she will remember the most when she looks back at this season.

"Just the togetherness," she said. "I could always hear on the field when other teams were yelling at their teammates. Someone would do something wrong and get criticized for it.

"But when someone did something wrong on this team they just got back at it. Their teammates were encouraging. 'You'll be better next time. You've got it next time.' It's just a better atmosphere. I enjoyed it."

Also nominated for the award were: Melani Guentherman (swimming) and Heather Slosarek (tennis).

Co-Breakout Performer of the Year: Olivia 'O.J' Joyce, sophomore, tennis, softball and Ruby Sandeman, sophomore, track and field.

Joyce played No. 4 singles on the varsity tennis team in the fall and then emerged as a key performer in softball this spring, earning All-Badger North Conference second-team honors as an infielder and outfielder.

Joyce batted a sizzling .442 (19 of 43) in conference play with 14 runs scored, five doubles and 12 runs batted in. She had an on-base percentage of .500 and an OPS (on-base percentage and slugging percentage) of 1.105.

"That came out of nowhere this year," softball coach Shane Been said of Joyce, who batted .370 overall, with 10 doubles, 13 RBI, 10 walks and stole three bases. "She had a strong year and led us in nearly every category on offense in conference.

"She's strong and had to play a lot of positions. She played wherever we needed her. I'm really proud of her. I really didn't see this coming."

File photo

From left, Grace Williams, Mariah Chao, Kassandra Miller and Cora Dunnum display their medals after finishing fourth in the 200-yard freestyle relay at state.

Sandeman, who played soccer as a freshman, went out for track and field this spring and excelled in the jumps. She was named the team's Most Valuable Performer.

Sandeman made her mark at the Badger North Conference meet, recording personal-best performances in both the long jump, where she was second with a leap of 17 feet, 6.25 inches, and the triple jump, where she was third (34-8.5).

She qualified for sectionals in both events by winning the long jump with a personal-best leap of 17-6.75 and taking fourth in the triple jump with another PR mark of 34-10.5 at the regional meet.

However, her bid for a state meet berth in both events was derailed when she was injured at the sectional meet.

"Ruby was definitely a great find for us," Sauk Prairie track and field coach Andy Sherman said. "She is helping keep our tradition of having solid jumpers alive."


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