Sam Acker and Jacob Lenerz

Sam Acker and Jacob Lenerz hug after the season’s final whistle at Madison College.

If Tuesday was the last game the Waunakee boys’ soccer team will play on their home grass, it was quite the send-off. Ending the game with all seniors on the field, Waunakee closed out final home game of the season with a victory.

“To me, that was a strong representation of what this program’s all about,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Dave Kettner. “It’s all about family, and it’s all about what this place means to a lot of people: not only the guys who are leaving here and playing their last game on this field, but for all those groups that have been here before. I’m very proud of this program as a whole, not only for the last two years but Coach Kliminski before that, Genova before that, Tok before that, all the others before that, I think this is a good representation of what the program has been about.”

The Warriors bested the Purple Knights of Beloit Memorial 4-1 in their postseason opener, advancing onto the WIAA Regional Final against Madison West.

Waunakee 4,

Beloit Memorial 1

The Purple Knights got the game’s first shot on goal, sending the ball toward Waunakee goaltender Joey Fuhremann just four minutes after play began. Fuhremann made the save, and the Warrior offense’s response came swiftly.

Less than a minute later, Mason Lee found Jacob Mouille near the Purple Knights’ goal; Mouille did the rest, beating Memorial’s keeper to net the first score of the game.

“It was important [to score early] because we know they have goal-scoring threats,” said Mouille. “Getting one in doesn’t hurt.”

Beloit Memorial continued to take their chances, and soon were able to score the equalizer. In the game’s 14th minute, the Purple Knights booted a long shot from outside the box just over Fuhremann’s outstretched hand to even the game at one goal apiece.

Both defenses leaned on increasingly physical play as the game wore on, with the referee allowing a significant amount of contact early.

With the game’s outcome still in doubt, Mouille gave the Warriors a huge boost starting in the 30th minute. Mouille took a free kick from just outside the box and bent the ball around Memorial’s keeper to put Waunakee back in the lead.

Waunakee’s forward wasn’t done, either. Less than three minutes later, Mouille doubled the Warriors’ lead by blasting a shot past the keeper off a rebound from Cole Kettner.

Up 3-1, Waunakee’s defense did a consistent job of keeping the Purple Knights in front of them; a late scrum near Waunakee’s goal nearly resulted in a goal, however, and ultimately did result in a halftime yellow card for Beloit Memorial.

Needing to preserve their two-goal lead in the second half, Fuhremann wasn’t tested often. When he was, though, he came through; Fuhremann made a brilliant save in the 55th minute to keep the Purple Knights off the scoreboard.

In the 71st minute, Lane Miller put the final nail in Beloit Memorial’s coffin, burying a shot on an assist from Mouille to put Waunakee up three goals.

The Warriors were able to hang on from there, taking the 4-1 score through the 90th minute.

The 4-1 score represents a four-goal turnaround from when these teams met previously in the season, when Beloit Memorial won 3-2.

“It was early in the season…” Mouille said of the biggest difference between Waunakee’s first game against Beloit Memorial and tonight. “Early in the season, we don’t really have the gears shifting yet. Coming up at the end, the gears started to shift and we got goals in. We’re just a better team.”

With the win, Waunakee advances onto Saturday’s WIAA Regional Final against Madison West at Madison College.

Madison West 3,

Waunakee 0

The second-seeded Regents of Madison West came into the postseason boasting a No. 4 ranking in Division 1. Early on, they showed their ranking was well-deserved.

“They brought a little bit more intensity to the beginning of the game and set the tone for the game,” said Dave Kettner. “It took our guys a little bit to catch up; by the time we caught up to their level of intensity, they already had one goal on us.”

The Regents racked up three shots on goal in the game’s first 10 minutes; Fuhremann was able to save them all to keep Waunakee tied at zero. West continued to attack, and finally broke through in the 18th minute with a goal from Jackson Stair.

“At that point, we start pushing and pushing,” Kettner added. “We got out of our game.”

12 minutes later, Stair doubled West’s lead to two goals, putting the Warriors in a tough spot.

Waunakee’s best scoring opportunity came late in the first half, when they had a pair of shots on goal over a span of 20 seconds. First, Mouille took a shot from the left side of the field; after his shot was saved, Sam Acker tried his luck from the right. Neither found the back of the net for the Warriors, and Waunakee went into the half trailing by two goals.

Needing a score, Waunakee continued to push as time wore down in the second half.

Fuhremann made another pair of saves early after the break, but Waunakee’s offense was stymied attempt after attempt by the Regent defense.

With just under four minutes to go, Stair completed the hat trick, netting his third goal of the game to make it a 3-0 game.

“These guys weren’t quitters; even with this game at 3-0, they played their hearts out all the way to the end,” Kettner said on what stands out most about this year’s team. “If you look back at some of the wins that came with recoveries in the second half, that’s really what this team’s all about. They played hard all the way until the end, never gave up… Sometimes it worked out in our favor, sometimes it didn’t. I’m very proud of this group of boys, especially the seniors. A lot of these seniors, I coached when they were freshmen; they’ve come a long way. My hope is that what they take out of this season will set them up for success in the future.”

Waunakee closes the season with a 14-7-1 (5-2 Badger North) record.

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