Tigers return good nucleus from state team

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff


KATE BRUCKSCHEN, shown executing a header against Oostburg last season, is a key returning starter for the Howards Grove soccer team this year. – Photo by Terry Schaller KATE BRUCKSCHEN, shown executing a header against Oostburg last season, is a key returning starter for the Howards Grove soccer team this year. – Photo by Terry Schaller HOWARDS GROVE – The Howards Grove Tigers lost a talented group of seniors off last year’s Division 4 state tournament team but return 15 letter winners, including four starters.

The state appearance was the first in the HG program’s history. The Tigers posted a 19- 6-1 overall record and placed third in the Big East Conference at 13-4-1. HG downed Oostburg, 2-1, in a sectional final to earn a state berth.

The Tigers fell to Lake Country Lutheran/University Lake School in the state semifinals, 4-0.

“The 2018 Howards Grove Tigers should be a very interesting team to watch. On the negative side the Tigers said good-bye to a senior class that contributed a conference championship [in 2016] and a first-ever trip to the state tournament,” said second-year Tiger head coach David Kisiolek.


KAYLA BENDER (7), pictured trying to control the ball versus La Crosse Aquinas last year, will be counted on to help spark the Howards Grove soccer team’s offense this year. – Photo by Terry Schaller KAYLA BENDER (7), pictured trying to control the ball versus La Crosse Aquinas last year, will be counted on to help spark the Howards Grove soccer team’s offense this year. – Photo by Terry Schaller “It will be a challenge to replace seven starters, four of which were first-team all-conference. On the positive side we are returning a good nucleus of players that were significant contributors in last year’s run to state.”

Kaitlynn Near, an All-BEC first-team forward as a senior last year, was the Tigers’ top scorer in 2017 with 25 (through 20 matches).

HG’s returning starters are senior defender Lizzy Betke, junior defender Kate Bruckschen, junior midfielder Caitlin Schmid and sophomore defender Riley Jahnke.

“Leading the returning Tigers are seniors Lizzy Betke and Kayla Gilligan. Betke, a starter on last year’s defense, and Gilligan, a first-off-the bench forward, will both be counted on to set the tone for the 2018 Tigers,” said Kisiolek.

“Returning starters Kate Bruckschen, Caitlin Schmid and Riley Jahnke will be expected to assume greater roles this year. Junior Sara Marten appears to be the heir apparent to four-year starting goalkeeper Olivia Stauss [All-BEC first teamer last year].

Junior Kayla Bender, who scored the game-winner in last year’s sectional semifinal match [HG edged Cedar Grove-Belgium, 3-2], will be relied on to provide an offensive spark once again this year,” said the coach.

The Tigers have a young squad, with 15 underclassmen and only three seniors, but Kisiolek is confident his team will compete very well.

“We will be very young and inexperienced but I expect us to compete at a very high level. Likely to be a bit of a learning curve early in the season but I am very pleased with what I have seen during the off-season and early practices,” he said.

“Our team strength is likely our athleticism. We’re very young but have very talented athletes.

“Based on what I have seen so far we will likely start four or five freshmen in our season opener.”

Kisiolek is high on his freshmen.

“The freshmen class is a very strong athletic group with several of the girls already getting starting roles or extensive minutes in both volleyball and basketball. Payton Scharl may be the sleeper in the group, having played extensively with Lakeshore United Select Soccer,” he said.

Kisiolek pointed out the keys for the Tigers to be successful.

“We need to get a lot from our freshmen to be successful this year. The entire team needs to develop that winning mindset,” he said.

“Even though we will be very young my expectation is that we compete for the conference championship and make a good run in the state tournament [postseason play].”

Kisiolek gave his thoughts on the BEC race.

“You would have to expect Oostburg to be considered the favorite in the conference this year as I believe they return most everyone from last year’s conference champions,” said the coach.

“I expect both Cedar Grove and Kohler to be right in the running as well.”

Oostburg won the 2017 BEC title with an 18-0 record. Saint Mary Catholic (Neenah) was second at 15-3.


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