Ava Stelter was on a different level than her competition all year.
Fittingly, the Lake Mills freshman earned Player of the Year honors for her play in the Capitol Conference in 2019. Stelter scored 15 times in conference play and had 33 goals for a Lake Mills team that lost in the WIAA Division 4 sectional semifinals.
“I knew I would have a successful season, but obviously I didn’t expect player of the year or anything like that,” Stelter said. “I knew when I came in I wanted to work on three things: leadership, getting better fitness and scoring a lot of goals. I didn’t think I’d get this close with my teammates and I didn’t think we’d have as good of a season as we did.”
The Cambridge/Deerfield soccer co-op did not have any players earn all-conference honors. United finished the season 1-11-2 overall and 1-6 in the Capitol Conference under first-year head coach Betty Rodriguez.
Their lone victory came against Lakeside Lutheran and the highlight of their season came in a 1-0 loss to conference power Sugar River in the first round of the WIAA Division 3 playoffs.
The L-Cats went five weeks without suffering a loss before dropping the sectional semifinal to Kettle Moraine Lutheran. Jeff Hegstrom, the Lake Mills head coach, credited Stelter with helping the L-Cats take their games to the next level.
“I’ve been around the game for so long, the way she touches the ball with her feet, it’s rarely ever a mistouch,” Hegstrom said. “We’ve had some very good players come through the program, but the level that she’s at is hard to describe because it’s so rare. Her foot skills, her vision and her connecting with teammates is so impressive.”
Junior midfielder Mia Kroll earned first-team honors and sophomore midfielder Julianna Wagner took second-team honors.
“She pushed their levels to the max simply because when you’re connecting with Ava Stelter you want to play at a high level with her,” Hegstrom said. “At the beginning of the season, there were some growing pains trying to figure out how to play someone with that caliber, by the end of the season, they were playing with a together mentality. It wasn’t just the talent she brought to the program, but the warmth she brought to the program.”
As the cohesion grew on the offensive end, the defensive line tightened up too. Junior Erin Strausss and freshman Katelyn Kitsembel each earned second-team honors for their work in front of honorable-mention keeper Ashley Buth.
“I think once we realized how good we could be, we really started playing better together,” Stelter said. “Everyone really wanted (to win) a lot more once we realized we really could play great soccer.”
Lakeside Lutheran ended the season without a win. The Warriors had two sophomores earn honorable mention honors; Mia Murray won as a forward and Kendra Wilson won as a midfielder.