With conditions suitable for a cross-country ski race, the Monona Grove High School boys soccer team found it difficult to gain traction on the snow-covered McFarland soccer field in the Nov. 1 WIAA Division 2 sectional semifinal match against Oregon.
The Panthers scored in the 25th minute on a penalty kick and added an insurance goal late in the second half to beat the Silver Eagles 2-0.
Monona Grove ended the season 13-4-4, and its quest for a state tournament was foiled for the third straight year by Oregon. The Panthers saw their state title hopes melt away the next day with a 2-0 loss at Elkhorn.
After an Oct. 31 snowstorm made Oregon’s soccer field unplayable, the game was moved first to the Goodman Sports Complex at Madison College and then to McFarland, where dozens of volunteers spent their Halloween evening removing ankle deep snow from the facility’s turf field. The surface was practically snow free during the evening’s first game between McFarland and Platteville/Lancaster in the WIAA Division 3 sectional semifinal.
During the break between games, snow flurries left behind a slippery white powder that both teams were forced to play in.
Initially, the snow didn’t seem to bother the Silver Eagles, who played very intense soccer in the first 20 minutes and kept Oregon defenders on their heels. Monona Grove had a great chance to score the first goal in the 15th minute, but Isaac Becker’s attempt was stopped.
After that, Oregon’s offense gained some steam in the slippery conditions, yet MG goalie Carter Kuhl and his defenders kept the ball out of the net.
But, the Panthers took the early lead in the 25th minute after they were awarded a penalty kick. Ben Statz drilled a shot past Kuhl to put Oregon on top 1-0.
Both teams had their opportunities to score throughout the rest of the game but couldn’t connect on various crossover passes and corner kicks.
The Panthers dimmed the Silver Eagles hopes further in the 78th minute as Collin Bjerke tapped a shot past Kuhl to give Oregon a 2-0 advantage.
A few moments later, Oregon almost added a third goal on a penalty kick, but Kuhl made a diving stop to his left. Yet, it didn’t matter as the clock ran out and MG’s season came to an emotional end.
Head coach Randy Becker and several players were close to tears after the defeat. But the snow stymied MG and made it difficult to execute its offense.
“In the first half, with the wind and the snow, we got get some good opportunities,” Becker said. “The second half was more challenging because the ball would move slowly in the snow. We fought and did the best we could. I tip my hat to Oregon. They are a well-coached program.
“You can’t control (the weather). They played in the same conditions and unfortunately, that’s life and you have to go on and learn from it.”
It was the third year in a row senior Daniel Grady had seen his teammates lose to Oregon. He said the snow made it difficult to move the ball.
“The ball was picking up a lot of snow and it was getting slippery. We had a hard time keeping our footing,” Grady said. “Things just didn’t go our way. I really thought we had them this year.”
The Silver Eagles will lose seven seniors to graduation including goalies Kuhl and Jake Havertape, Isaac Becker, Grady, Jacob Munz, Quinn Halstead and Will Schreiner. Coach Becker said they are a great group of role models.
“They were great examples for the juniors and sophomores on how to play the game and how to be a good teammate,” he said. “Hopefully, we can grow and become better from it.”