Tuesday, Oct. 19, the Sun Prairie boys soccer team’s push for the state finals kicked off. First up was a date with conference foe Madison La Follette in the first regional game of Sectional No. 3. The Cardinals had myriad scoring opportunities, but struggled to find the back of the net. Still, two first-half goals from senior Nathan Voung carried Sun Prairie as it won, 2-0, to advance.

From the onset, Sun Prairie, the No. 3 seed in the sectional, looked primed to blow out the No. 14 seed Lancers. It would have been fair to assume that would be the outcome, too, based on the result from earlier in the season. Back in September, the Cardinals smoked the Lancers, 7-0. That was not the case Tuesday evening.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying, though. Senior forward and leading goal scorer Gabe Voung kept the pressure on all night, challenging for every ball and putting some legitimate scares into the Lancers’ defense.

It was a tough night for Sun Prairie junior Daniel Worrell, who had plenty of wide open looks at the net but could never get a score. While we’ll touch on his accuracy later, his aggressiveness did set up the first goal of the game.

In the sixth minute, Worrell was taken to the turf by a La Follette defender inside the goalie box. The Cardinals were awarded a penalty kick, which Nathan Voung took the honors for. He loaded up and fired a shot to the middle right, screaming past the outstretched hands of the La Follette goalkeeper. Sun Prairie had a quick lead that it would never relinquish.

A minute later, Gabe Voung nearly doubled the Sun Prairie advantage. La Follette’s goalkeeper, junior Devin Glassman, deserves all the credit in the world, though. This game could have been much uglier for his Lancers had he not turned in an outstanding performance. He knocked away Voung’s goal attempt, as he would continue to do throughout the night.

Around the fifteenth minute, a new problem sprouted up for the Sun Prairie offense: touching the ball offsides. Granted, it’s not Gabe Voung or Worrell’s fault that they were much faster than the La Follette defenders. But, the two consistently got ahead of themselves when breakaway opportunities presented themselves, instantly neutralizing goal-scoring opportunities.

The Cardinals wouldn’t need a breakaway to score their next goal, though. A set play on a free kick would suffice.

Following a foul near midfield, Logan Parrish lined up to launch the ball in the nineteenth minute. He scooped it up high, looping right to the cranium of Gabe Voung. Instead of heading it towards the goal, he bumped it to his left, directly to the chest of his twin brother, Nathan. Nathan bumped it down to his foot and fired a goal past the keeper to extend the Sun Prairie lead to 2-0.

And, that was it. A promising start with two goals within the first twenty minutes of play would fizzle out. The Sun Prairie offense would continue to push but not score again.

“We were missing Riley (Stevens), our attacking midfielder,” Sun Prairie head coach Tok Kim explained. “He sets up a lot of things, so we were kind of out of sync in our attacking. La Follette is not a bad team. They worked really hard. But, we have to finish. We had our opportunities, but we didn’t finish. We definitely have to work on that.”

A combination of continuous offside penalties and continued dominance from Glassman kept the Cardinals out of the back of the net for the remainder of the first half. In the 36th minute, La Follette nearly narrowed the lead. The Lancers fired in a perfect free kick and went for a header. Instead, Carsten Ganter made the save of the night, denying La Follette twice and clearing the ball out to preserve the lead.

Sun Prairie kept up the offensive pressure in the second half. But, the forwards couldn’t help themselves. Two more offsides were called within the first five minutes. As if the offsides weren’t enough, accuracy started failing the Cardinals, too.

In the 49th minute, Landon Holmen was streaking towards the goal without a defender within five feet of him. The moment proved too big for the sophomore as he sailed a shot well high of the net. Four minutes later, Gabe Voung broke a few ankles to get a clear shot at the net. His touch was misplaced, however, and the shot rolled harmlessly to the left. The Cardinals quickly earned a free kick immediately following... which was sent wide left of the goal by Logan Parrish.

Worrell got in on the fun as well, sending a shot directly to the keeper and then directly into the left post, both on wide open looks. Glassman deserves his flowers for his second-half performance as well. While accuracy was an issue, Sun Prairie did manage to put shots on goal. He turned them all away, turning in a perfect second half.

In the 70th minute, Gabe Voung nearly got his first goal of the game. Again on a free kick, it was a perfect volley from freshman Lucas Albright. It was not meant to be, however, as the header barely flew over the goal.

Even with accuracy and discipline issues, the Cardinals still advanced with a win. They’ll have to clean up those mistakes in a hurry, though. Next up is Middleton, the No. 6 team in the sectional, which beat Oconomowoc, 2-0, Tuesday.

Middleton finished just behind Sun Prairie in the Big Eight standings this season, claiming 3rd with a conference record of 7-2-0, just barely behind Sun Prairie’s mark of 7-1-1. The two teams met recently. On Oct. 7, Sun Prairie hosted Middleton on a rainy night and won, 4-0.

Saturday, Oct. 23, Middleton will be traveling to Sun Prairie once again. This time, the season is on the line. The winner of that game will face the winner of No. 2 Arrowhead/No. 10 Badger in the sectional semifinals.

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