It’s been a while since two games have been so crucial for the Waunakee boys’ soccer team.
The Warriors took care of business in both of their games this week, and in doing so, claimed the Badger North title. First up was a matchup between with the team who was in first place atop the Badger North standings: DeForest
The game was a physical back-and-forth display at Madison College’s Goodman Field as both teams consistently put pressure on the other’s goal. There was plenty of offense early, but neither team was able to break through until the 22nd minute of the game, when Cole Kettner hit James Bradley down the side. Bradley sent a beautiful cross to Cameron Hayko, who finished to give Waunakee a 1-0 lead.
The lead was short-lived, however, as DeForest responded with a goal of their own just one minute later.
The Norskies kept up their momentum; in the 34th minute, DeForest found the net to take their first lead of the game. The Warriors fought back, tying the game up before halftime hit, as Nathan Mais hit Jacob Mouille with a nice cross, which was converted to tie the game at two.
While the first half was a display of offense, the second half saw both defenses clamp down. There were numerous free kicks and corner kicks in the half, and DeForest controlled the ball often early in the half. The senior-led defense of Waunakee from Carson Ejzak, Ben Koss, Hudson Miller, Blake Mueller, Cole Fetters and Owen Lee held strong. backed by a steady Sullivan Schwitters in goal.
As the teams battled, Waunakee methodically worked the ball down the field, waiting for a break in DeForest’s defense. In the 70th minute, they found the break as Sam Acker took the ball down the right side and into the box. He blasted a shot off the goalie, and Kettner was there for the rebound to give the Warriors a late 3-2 lead.
The next twenty minutes were tense, as the lead in the Badger North came closer with every second that ticked off the clock. A tough DeForest team tried to come back; the action was very physical with numerous free kicks in the closing minutes.
Waunakee held tough, and Schwitters made several clutch saves in the final 10 minutes, keeping DeForest off the board to come away with the 3-2 win and the lead in the Badger North.
With DeForest taken care of, Waunakee could claim the Badger North title with a win on Friday at Sauk Prairie.
Sauk Prairie 0
A soggy practice field in Sauk served as the pitch for Friday’s game, playing much slower than Waunakee’s previous two games, which were played on turf.
Both teams worked to get a feel for each other early. The Warriors stayed patient and used great teamwork to start the scoring midway through the first half. Hudson Miller got the ball to Brennen Miller who quickly found Chris Laack; Laack dodged a defender, then hit an open Mais, who finished for a 1-0 lead.
The Warriors kept the pressure on, but the half ended with that being the only goal scored.
The Warriors came out aggressively in the second half. Five minutes, Cole Kettner and Acker teamed up to get a quality shot on goal, which bounced off the Eagle goalie. Mais was there for the rebound, however, and doubled Waunakee’s lead to two goals.
Waunakee could now taste the Conference title. The Warriors back line held off the Sauk team desperate for a goal. Schwitters was steady in goal corralling any ball that came his way.
Sauk had their best chance late, when they got a breakaway as a Waunakee defender slipped on the wet grass. Schwitters found a way to push the shot wide, then saved the ensuing corner to keep the Eagles off the board.
Late in the game, Schwitters punted to a waiting Acker, who worked though the defense and put in goal number three.
Now 3-0, the game was all but decided, and as the clock hit zero, the Warriors had the win and their first Badger North Championship since 2012.
Waunakee then had their final game of the regular season on Monday, when they faced Lodi.
Waunakee found the back of the net early and often vs. the Blue Devils, and closed their regular season schedule with a resounding victory.
Nathan Dresen opened the scoring for the Warriors in the 14th minute, and Waunakee was off and running. Hayko and Mason Lee added goals of their own in the first half, and the Warriors were firmly in control as the teams headed into the break.
While Waunakee kept attacking, it took a little longer for them to extend their lead after the start of the second half. Eventually, Mais beat the keeper to put Waunakee up 4-0 with just under 18 minutes to play. Mouille capped off the scoring two minutes later to put Waunakee up by five, and the Warriors cruised to a victory from there.
Waunakee enters the postseason with a record of 11-2-4, having not lost a game since August. The Warriors were given a three seed in the WIAA playoffs, which began on Tuesday, when they faced Burlington, the results of which were not available for this week’s edition. If the Warriors were victorious in their first-round game, they will face the winner between Sauk Prairie and Fort Atkinson on Saturday for a chance to move onto sectionals.