Payback was on the minds of the Waunakee boys’ lacrosse team.
Three weeks ago, Sun Prairie defeated the Warriors on their own turf. On Monday, the Warriors returned the favor, knocking the Cardinals out of the playoffs in their State Quarterfinal contest at Ashley Field.
Sun Prairie 5
“When the stakes are high, it’s always difficult,” said Waunakee’s Head Coach Mike Reiter. “One team has to go home.”
The first quarter didn’t appear difficult for the Warriors. Waunakee controlled all aspects of the game in the opening period and jumped out to a 2-0 lead early with a pair of goals from Clayton Cerett.
Jaxson Ryan capped the quarter with a goal of his own with just over a minute remaining, putting the Warriors up 3-0 entering the second quarter.
Waunakee knew to be wary, though, of a Cardinal team that had erased a three-goal lead in their previous matchup. Sun Prairie stormed back to tie the game at three within the first five minutes of the second quarter, and seemed to seize momentum along the way.
“That’s what the end of the season is all about,” said Reiter. “What teams can execute when the fans are a little more into it, the adversity, the momentum shifts. How do your kids respond?”
Waunakee’s response came from Jack Gengler, who scored less than two minutes after the Cardinals had tied the game to give the Warriors a lead they’d never relinquish.
Neither team was able to add any more goals to their total before halftime, and the 4-3 score remained to open the third.
The hard-fought game picked up intensity, and the swinging pendulum of momentum shifted often as the third quarter progressed. Momentum swung in the favor of the Warriors following an early goal by Gengler, but it swung right back to the Cardinals two minutes later, when they cut the lead back down to one goal.
Ryan seized the momentum back for the Warriors a couple minutes later with his second goal of the day, putting Waunakee up 6-4 to enter the fourth quarter.
As the fourth quarter began, Sun Prairie had a chance to make the pendulum swing right back in their direction when the Warriors were charged with a one-minute penalty early. Waunakee’s defense played phenomenally and emerged from being shorthanded unscathed, however, keeping the Cardinals from cutting into the Warrior lead.
With just over six minutes to go, Waunakee was given a golden opportunity to put the game on ice, and took full advantage. When the Cardinals were tagged with a one-minute penalty of their own, Robson took no time finding the back of the net for a huge score to give Waunakee a commanding three-goal lead with 6:02 to play.
Waunakee’s offense shifted into ball-control mode from there, and time kept ticking away on the clock.
Sun Prairie managed to make it a 7-5 game with just under three minutes to go, but couldn’t maintain possession the rest of the way as the Warriors emerged with the win.
“I was very proud of how our kids responded tonight…” said Reiter. “We were a little bit more ready to execute at the end of the game vs. what we did three weeks ago… We knocked down a ton of passes; the defense had a great game. Ray [Olkowski] made some big saves. Jaxson Ryan scored two goals today; it was an awesome game for him.”
Cerett, Gengler and Ryan each led the Warriors with two goals, followed by Robson with one. Olkowski had a huge game, making a total of eight saves to keep the Warriors in the lead. Brayden Olstad and Thomas Meffert led the team in groundballs collected with four and three, respectively.
The win put the Warriors in the State Semifinals on Wednesday, the results of which were not available for this week’s edition. In order to get to the Quarterfinal matchup at Sun Prairie, Waunakee first had to dispatch University School of Milwaukee the previous Friday.
The Wildcats simply couldn’t match Waunakee’s initial intensity.
Waunakee dominated the beginning of both halves, outscoring USM 5-0 in both the first and third quarters. USM eventually found their intensity, matching the Warriors 3-3 in the second quarter, but the damage had already been done.
Going into halftime with an 8-3 lead, the Warriors slammed the door shut on any potential comeback with their second 5-0 quarter of the game to take a 13-3 lead into the fourth.
With the win in hand and their foot off the gas, the Warriors surrendered six goals in the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats never threatened to come close.
As the horn rang, Waunakee had secured their first win of the playoffs in dominating fashion, winning 16-9.
Jarrett Wulf was tops on the team with five goals, followed by Cerett with four and Luke Reiter with two. Matthew Lindley, Robson, Parker Stedman, Isaac Schaaf, Meffert and Genger each added one goal.
Olkowski made a total of 12 saves on the day to earn the win in goal. Leading the team in groundballs was Meffert with nine, followed by Brayden Olstad with six.
Waunakee next played Middleton on Wednesday with a chance to return to Carroll University for the third straight season. Should Waunakee have emerged victorious against the Cardinals, they’d play the winner between Kettle Moraine and Arrowhead in the State Championship on Saturday, June 8in Schneider Stadium at Carroll University. Start time is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.